Monday, March 21, 2011

National Agriculture Week

It is National Agriculture Week!  To celebrate, this post is devoted to healthy eating and to the Flathead Valley Farmers that dedicate themselves to providing the meals that end up on our dinner plates and in our kids' bellies.

Ever since becoming pregnant with Eldon, I have started and continued to research and actually care about the food that we are eating. I have learned alot over the last 3 years, and I keep adding limitations to our diets, which in turn has opened up a whole new world of food possibilities.

First it was to replace anything "white" with whole grain.  According to me: success. According to Nate: I have butchered his favorite meal (spaghetti) by using "chalk noodles."  Too bad for Nate, he ended up taking that one for the team.  I still serve the chalk noodles.
My next big revelation was the best food advice I think I have ever only shop the perimeter of the grocery store, avoiding the aisles and in doing so avoiding the processed foods.  There are still a few things (the bread, canned olives, tomato sauces, cheerios etc.) that are plucked from the forbidden aisles but I do really well on this one.  This ONE rule covers so many bases.
The newest has been to eat local. local local local. Lucky for me and other Valley residents, eating locally here is wonderfully easy.  Need meat? Go hunting. Want fish? Grab a pole. Berries? Ok, not as easy but totally worth it. Don't want to put in all that work? Flathead has still got you covered.

Our deepfreezer looks like most of our neighbors in that it is usually full of the deer/elk meat from last hunting season.  We are fortunate enough to see our meat through every phase and know that the burger in our chalk-noodle-tainted spaghetti has only touched the hands of us and a few other close family members that graciously help to cut, grind, and package meat.

If you are like us, you rarely buy beef. But when you do, the source matters.  To support a local farmer and know that your meat was taken care of from grazing-open-pastures beginning to much-more-humane-than-a-commerical-slaughterhouse ending, check out these places:

Farm to Market Pork- they are currently having a big sale and have advertised that they accept food what are you waiting for? On lazy Saturday mornings when I think about skipping Farmer's Market, Nate begs me to go for the sole purpose of picking up bacon from these guys. Delicious.

Flathead Farms- don't know much about this farm other than they turned up in a google search for "grass fed beef Flathead Valley" It looks like their website hasn't been updated recently but there is still contact info.

There is a rancher in Dayton, MT that gave me his card at the library showing of "Food, Inc."  I wish I could locate the card, and I can not find the name anywhere but know they raise grass-fed hormone/antibiotic free beef.  I will update it as soon as I track them down.

I thought about starting a kickass garden this year but frankly, I just don't have the dedication.  I am afraid of my canner (my Grandma makes it look so easy) and don't want to be shackled to the duty of picking/preserving produce when it's at it's peak.  Not to mention, I am a cold-blooded houseplant murderer and seriously doubt that I would be a skilled gardener. (I am making a vow to overcome my fear of both canning and power tools in the near future...but that's another post.) 

Eldon and Nate picking raspberries at Grandma's house

The next best thing is to purchase a share from one of the Valley's Community Supported Agriculture programs which we plan on doing with a portion of our tax return this year.  For those that don't know, you pay somewhere around $500.00 (they have half shares available too) and get weekly deliveries of fresh, organic, locally grown, in season produce.  They box up a generous variety of whatever is ripe and ready to go that week and it goes directly from the farm to your kitchen. It forces you to incorporate otherwise overlooked vegetables into your diets too, which is an added bonus. If you are interested, this website has TONS of good information about buying local in the valley, as well as a list of farms.

I appreciate CSA for the convenience and the challenge, but the same farmers are usually at the Farmer's Market offering the same great produce. I LOVE Farmers Markets.

I still swing by every Saturday morning in the summer to pick up bacon, eggs, bread, and browse the other goodies. 

Hard to think that the first weekend is right around the corner!
Kalispell: (Saturdays) April 16- October 15     9am-12:30pm                For more info call 752-3350
Columbia Falls: (Thursdays) June 9- September 29     5pm-7pm            For more info, call 892-0318
Whitefish: (Tuesdays) May 24- September 27   5pm-7:30pm                  For more infor, call 871-9744
West Glacier: couldn't find updated information. In the past, it has been Fridays 5pm-7pm

Locally produced food can also be found in some of our grocery stores.  I know that Kalispell Kreamery milk is used at most local latte stands, and I buy it by the gallon at Glacier Discount.  Wheat Montana bread is everywhere, including Costco.  I usually shop at Mountain Valley Foods for local/specialty products and Whithey's Health Foods carries local items including honey, eggs, bison, and even emu.

We live in one of the most self sufficient States in the United States.  Everything we need is at our fingertips, including food that was grown and produced down the road.  Residents of larger cities would urge us all to take advantage of everything our land has to give us.  I am making it a goal to do so.  Let's keep our money in the valley and support our local farmers. Ready, Set, Go!  

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