An emphasis on local: Rooted in Food hosts farm tour, dinner

August 2014 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Food & Drink
Molly Pattison and Alexis, London and Melissa Wagoner pick vegetables in the garden. Eating locally produced food is a key goal for Rooted in Food proponents.

Molly Pattison and Alexis, London and Melissa Wagoner pick vegetables in the garden. Eating locally produced food is a key goal for Rooted in Food proponents.

By Brenna Wiegand

A small food fair at the Silverton Grange put together by Elyse McGowan 18 months ago is fast becoming a multifaceted grassroots movement aimed at connecting local growers with people who want to make fresh, locally grown food a bigger part of their diet.

Young mothers Melissa Wagoner and Heather Desmarteau-Fast have taken up McGowan’s “Rooted in Food” banner and run with it.

Last spring the second Rooted in Food Fair at Silverton Community Center hosted 27 vendors from around the Willamette Valley and was a huge success, Wagoner said, and the 2015 event they are planning at Seven Brides Brewery will be even better.

In the meantime, Rooted in Food sold 170 tickets to its nine-stop garden tour in June, providing seed money for its latest venture: a self-guided tour of four local farms followed by a gourmet harvest dinner spotlighting the day’s fresh fare.

“We’re all about local food,” Wagoner said. “It’s hard for farmers around here to get their stuff marketed; our Farmers Market is great, but it’s pretty small and mostly during the summer.”

Heading up the dinner is Silverton’s Joel Autry, former Silver Grille owner and creator of Where There’s Smoke barbecue sauce, featured in the June 2013 Our Town.

“Joel just got his own bar code for his sauce,” Wagoner said. “I’m extremely grateful I found him; he is a really great guy and really knows what he’s doing.”

Trying to eat local on a day-to-day basis poses challenges in terms of time, money and resources, especially for those without a backyard garden.

“It’s difficult and I wouldn’t say we’re really doing it,” said Fast, who works part time and, with husband Courtney, is raising Taylor, 7, and Hayden, 2.

Rooted in Food Small Farms Tour
Saturday, Sept. 6, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Tickets: $10 (kids 10 and under free)
Self-guided tour of four Silverton
area farms. Products include hazelnuts,
wild rice, goats, dairy cows and
chickens. Program and map provided
to ticket holders at Silverton
Farmers Market the day of the tour.Rooted in Food Harvest Dinner
Saturday, Sept. 6, 6:30 p.m.
Scenic Valley Farms, Gervais
Tickets: $75 (must be over 21)
Beginning with wine and appetizers,
chef Joel Autry and chef de cuisine
Michael Le Parc prepare a wine-paired,
four-course dinner based on ingredients
from the farms in that day’s Small Farms Tour.

For tickets for either event,
or Silverton Farmers Market beginning Aug. 23.
Info: 541-264-0081;

“At this point for us it’s probably only 20 percent. We eat more beans; legumes … We can’t afford to eat local meat on a regular basis.” Yet with what they’ve learned about commercial food production methods, it’s become harder for them to buy, say, bags of frozen chicken breasts at the store.

Fast said America didn’t used to be the land of “starch and cheap meat” but, with the last century’s rise of the “supermarket concept,” its ability to source food from thousands of miles away, and less people living off the land, alternate ways of procuring food have dwindled.

“That’s not necessarily the best for our bodies and best for the world,” she added. “More of our food is going to be the fresh stuff at this point; mainly the vegetables.”

Wagoner’s involvement has sharpened her family’s eating habits, too.

“It keeps me on my toes,” she said. “We always joke about days when we wouldn’t wear our Rooted in Food shirts – like when we’re at the fair, eating cotton candy.”

On the whole, Melissa and Jason Wagoner make the extra effort to consistently put local, fresh food on the table for Alexis, 5, and London, 3.

“We get a lot of our things from farms – our milk and our chickens – so the kids know that our food doesn’t generally come from the store,” Melissa said. “We have a huge garden in the backyard – it’s a lot of work but it’s also a lot of fun and is very therapeutic.”

The move to becoming more of a “locavore” begins one bite at a time.

“No. 1, growing a vegetable garden is really a big deal, even if it’s just a pot of lettuce on your patio,” Fast said. “It’s not only something you’re producing for yourself but it’s educational.” Kids watch the seeds they plant sprout and grow and learn what it takes to pick a few lettuce leaves or a cucumber without destroying the entire plant.

Then, it’s trying to get to know your local farmers; stopping at local produce stands or looking into a CSA: Community Supported Agriculture, where families “subscribe” to a local farm and receive weekly produce boxes in return. Visiting farms and pointing out crops to the kids while driving through farm country are ways, she said, to remedy the disconnect her 30-something generation seems to have about where their food comes from.

“The cost for local and/or organic food has come down some but it needs to go down more,” she said. “I think the more we can support it and ask for it wherever we can, however we can, the more they’ll start bringing it in for us and hopefully that will bring the price down. The demand is there; it will happen.”

The group’s website is blossoming into a sort of clearinghouse for matching up local producers and consumers: where you can get local eggs or a side of beef. In addition to the events and directories, more fresh recipes and classes in growing, harvesting and preserving food are on the horizon.

“It’s become clear to us that we have to change the way we’re eating,” Fast said. “We have figured out that if we eat closer to home, we’re doing something for ourselves; things for the economy and hopefully for the environment as well.”

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