That's changing, though, and I have to admit I'm missing Oregon big time lately. I received my Winter 2008 issue of The Scene, which is Willamette's magazine. And it was all dedicated to food. Wow. Where was this coolness when I was at WU? The dining commons work with 12-15 area farmers that provide local, sustainably grown produce to the students. Students have planted a garden, and they've worked with Happy Harvest Farm , which delivers locally grown produce to local public schools. A student, Justin Rothboeck, attempted to go local-only for a year, though I just read that he has reconsidered the project after eating local for 8 months. I'm really impressed with Bon Appėtit as well, which is a national company that has found ways to introduce local sustainable food on the corporate level. Willamette even had a "Geography of Food" class!
The Scene also had an interesting article, "Soul Food" by Sarah Evans, where they interviewed four members of the Willamette community - a Methodist minister, a Jewish student, a Medieval history professor, and a Paiute tribal elder - about ways in which food is connected to spiritual and cultural traditions. There is also a rather frightening and sober article, "Running Dry: How Water is Reshaping, Politics, Profits and People in the 21st Century " by Nadene Steinhoff - it'll make you think about how long that shower you took this morning lasted.
And I have to own up to some sadness about all this because I wish all of this had been available when I was at Willamette. Then I realized that it could have been...but I wasn't the same person then and most likely would not have taken advantage of such wonderful opportunities and resources. That said, I'm thrilled that this is happening now. It's the right time for it, and it gives me hope to see university campuses getting the next generation involved. I feel proud of my alma mater, and I feel such a strong connection to its values in ways that I never felt when I was actually attending the school.
What has prompted all this introspection? All the missing of Oregon? Well, that would be my amazing mother-in-law, of course. She sent me a wonderful email today (she sends me lots, actually) about a local Salem business, Organic Fresh Fingers. They are working with local daycares, preschools, and elementary schools to provide organic meals to the children; they make the list of ingredients available on their website and I was thrilled to see that I recognized everything! Which should happen much more often than it does in our modern food system! MC (my MIL) works in career services at WU and met the CEO/owner of Organic Fresh Fingers while they were hiring interns on the WU campus. What a great experience for an undergrad!
MC also makes me salivate with her tales of all the wonderful things she finds at EZ Orchards , the local farm produce stand in Keizer, Oregon (which is right next to Salem). We love stopping there when we're visiting Oregon, and I'm fairly certain MC is personally keeping them in business during the recession! On EZ Orchards' website, it says they'll have lavender plants available starting this month...LAVENDER! Swoooon! Especially as NYC got hit with a minor blizzard today... All of a sudden, Oregon's mild drizzle, stellar wines, unique microbreweries, farm produce, and green hills are looking really nice! And this discussion has been limited to Salem's loveliness...we haven't even discussed Portland! And don't even get me started on McMenamins.
Eat, drink, and be thankful MC gives me a thousand reasons to go back home.