In his article The Idea of a Local Economy, Wendell Berry discusses how people must protect themselves against a “total economy”—an economy which is “an unrestrained taking of profits from the disintegration of nations, communities, households, landscapes, and ecosystems.” This protection will come through the practice of local economy, and a local economy rests upon neighborhood and subsistence. Berry writes, “a viable community is made up of neighbors who cherish and protect what they have in common… a viable community…protects its own production capacities.”
Many Oregonians got together in May to march against Monsanto, along with thousands of others across the nation. This march was not just against the use of GMOs, but against this very notion of a total economy—an economy made up of unrestrained corporate profits that ultimately results in the loss of economic security for local communities. But while corporations like Monsanto continue to grow, so do our shouts against them. For we have realized the threat they hold to our local economies, to our local farms, our local seed varieties, and our local ecosystems. In the Willamette Valley some of our local farmers are acting against these corporate forces.
Green Willow Grains, the marketing and distribution arm of Stalford Seed Farms in Tangent, Oregon, stone-grinds organic red and white flour every day in their mill in Brownsville. The idea of growing organic red wheat— not an easy feat in the Willamette Valley—came about when Harry Stalford decided to put 200 acres of his grass seed fields to fallow when his daughter raised her concern about the amount of pesticides needed to grow the grass crop. Then the call for locally grown organic wheat came from Corvallis, and he decided to put those fields to use. Several years later, they have successfully established their red wheat harvest. Originally they sold their wheat to restaurants and bakeries that were willing to pay up to twice as much for their product because of its close-to-home origins, but now they’ve found a niche on the shelves of local natural food stores up and down the Willamette Valley.
LifeSource happily offers their flours and oats— packaged in gingham cloth bags! We also have Green Willow products in our bulk section. While the cost of the flour is higher—due to the cost of packaging, milling, labeling, delivering, and the farm’s commitment to paying a living wage to its workers—the flours are worth it. Not just for their freshly-stone-ground taste, but for the support we give to our local farmers and our local economy.
Another local farm is the Vincent Family Cranberries company located along Oregon’s southern coast in Bandon. They’ve been a family cranberry farm since 1957. They currently have 30 acres devoted to cranberry bogs where, come harvest time, the fields are flooded and the cranberries float to the surface of the water where they are gathered into large circles and transferred into trucks. After so many years of using machinery to pick the berries, they’ve developed this “hands-off” method of harvesting, so the berries are picked without being touched, preserving their dark sweet meat.
Ty Vincent, the general manager of the farm says, “Oregon has one of the longest growing seasons for cranberries. That’s because of the temperate climate that allows the berries to mature very slowly, which allows the sugar to build up naturally in the berry. It makes them darker in color and sweeter.”
They’ve also developed their business by adding a blended cranberry juice to the market. They say it’s the only cranberry juice blend made by actual cranberry farmers, and the juice boasts a higher cranberry content than most other cranberry juice blends as well. At LifeSource we carry their Cranberry Marionberry and Cranberry Blueberry, both delicious! They also sell dried cranberries made with unsweetened apple juice rather than sugar. We sell these moist berries both in bulk and packaged on the shelf next to our other fruits and snacks.
These farmers, and others in our valley, are conscientious of their practices and the effects they have on our local economy and our local food shelf. It’s our right to “cherish and protect” these products. It’s through our consumerism that our voices can be heard loud and clear. The more local we buy, the more our local market will flourish.