At our Thanksgiving dinner table, we don’t thank God for the food. We thank the farmers. It started as a statement by my wife, Tara — a not-so-subtle hint to her parents that she puts her faith in a different place than they do theirs. But now it’s an important part of our holiday ritual, and a very sincere one, because we are able to thank many of the farmers by name.
This year, we thanked Karla for the
turkey (at 19 pounds, it was four times the bird we needed, but the
leftovers kept us fed for two weeks) and Lee for the dried cherries
in the stuffing. We thanked the Souceks for the beets and Lance for
the carrots — the best carrots on the planet, we’re
sure. We thanked the Austin family for the potatoes, and Elsie and
Sven out at Purple Haze Garlic Farm for the 30 cloves that were
stuffed in the turkey and baked with the side dishes. We thanked
Adam and Valerie for the pumpkin in one pie, and Wayne for the
apples in the other. And finally, we thanked Ashley and Ted up at
Stinky Blooms Flower Farm for the dried bouquet that sat in the
middle of the table. It was an amazing feast.
first-name familiarity is thanks largely to Tara, who has a keen
interest (and a master’s degree) in marketing local foods.
She works with the local organic growers’ organization, and
also masterminds the garden that has swallowed a good chunk of our
lawn. We’re both recovering vegetarians, but insist on being
acquainted with where our meat comes from. I’ve even taken up
elk hunting, a pastime that no doubt horrifies my parents at least
as much as Tara’s Thanksgiving grace horrifies hers.
We could no doubt do better with our eating habits, but
buying as much local, organic food as possible gives us one
tangible way to reduce our ecological footprint. It also helps keep
friends and neighbors in business, and our small community alive.
Just as satisfying, buying local and organic allows us to opt out
of an industrial agriculture system that has done tremendous harm
to both the land and rural communities.
And that, in a
nutshell, is what this issue of High Country
News is all about.
In the cover story, Sam
Western writes about the practitioners of "vanguard agriculture"
who are helping to drag rural Montana out of the proverbial ditch.
In the "Uncommon Westerners" profile on page 7, Kerry Brophy writes
about how one Wyomingite is putting her guests in touch with their
food. On page 4, Brodie Farquhar writes about what happens when
agricultural interests run roughshod over the West’s native
wildlife. And Betsy Marston weighs in with her "Heard Around the
West" column on the back page, showing us how even your beer can be
a political statement.
Take a look at what’s on the
end of your fork this holiday season, and ask yourself whether you
can live with it. Change starts at home, as they say — and
what better place to begin than the dinner table?