Within 15 minutes of my signing up for the 3rd annual Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Food Challenge (or DDOWELFC for sort of short), it began to snow. Next my sweetheart walked in and when I told him of my fun new project (already looking less fun with the snowfall), he exclaimed: "Whoah, that's going to be tough!" ...... and all of a sudden I panicked. I quickly realized that one of the reasons for my panic was that, always the purist, I had automatically started thinking: local should be 40-50 miles, no more. And preferably, grown by me, personally. Great.
I mean, there just isn't much commercial agriculture around here. Short growing season, dry air, cool nights even in summer, sandy soil, and less than 10" of precipitation annually, most of it falling as snow. What local farmers there are grow things like garlic, peppermint, alfalfa for hay, grass seed, and a few sugar beets. We do have some good local beef and other meat animals, and some dairies. Other than that, it's sagebrush tips, juniper berries and maybe some bambi. Smudge sticks, gin and venison -- not too satisfying.
Most of what we think of as 'local' produce, especially this time of year, comes from the verdant Willamette Valley on the west side of the Cascades, which is out of our more reasonable 100 mile 'local' limit. Heck, that won't even get us to the nearest large city, Eugene, 120 miles away.
Discouraged but curious, I got out our trusty road atlas and turned to the map of Oregon. Then I located a protractor and drew in some circles, for 50, 100 and 150 miles. Aha! I realized that Eugene and its nearby agricultural bounty, was 120 miles away by ROAD, but in pure geographical map (crow) miles, it is less than 100. YES. So we get Eugene, Coburg, Corvallis, Lebanon....
And when I reread Laura of DDOWELFC's instructions, I saw that she suggests using 150 miles as 'local' for wintertime. Oh so excellent. That means we get Hood River and Medford (pears, apples), Dufur and the plains of north central Oregon (wheat and other grains), a good chunk of the Willamette Valley (hazelnuts, berries, wine, and a lot more) and a large portion of the central coast (oysters! salt water fishies! salmon! ). We get Klamath Falls, so I can keep eating my blue green algae. And can I count Dagoba chocolate, which is undoubtedly grown in some far distant, tropical clime, but is packaged in our very own Ashland? Oho, this is looking good.
More to the point, what I am discovering as I look at this map, is that, except for a few basic and obvious things, I have no idea what all even grows in Oregon. I know there are a ton of small farmers over there, in the Valley and in the Coast Range, because they bring truckloads of beautiful food over to our farmer's market during the growing season. But where they are, and what else might be out there, I don't really know. So this will be an interesting project.