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Local, Seasonal, Economy

June 21, 2011

Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon

Mr. B and I went to the Farmer’s Market this weekend and I had a not so quiet freak out of joy: tomatoes. Oh, tomatoes. I have had a life long love affair with tomatoes. I will eat them any way you can give them to me, especially with salt and pepper straight. This isn’t unusual, although I have met a lot of people who claim to hate tomatoes. At any rate, Montana has long been a tomato desert. With a five month growing season, even those with hoop houses are lucky to bring tomatoes to market by July. I am just happy to see tomatoes by August and usually have a huge haul of greenies in September. So when we went to the market and saw an entire stall chocked full of beautiful (and tasty!) tomatoes in June, I lost it and spent like $20 just on tomatoes.

How is this possible? The tomatoes were from Mountain View Gardens in Kalispell. I’ve seen their little boxes of “cocktail” tomatoes at the store and have bought them in the past, but I am also a tomato-seasonal purist. I’ll buy canned tomatoes over out of season produce any day. Mountain View manages to bring beautiful produce to the market by growing plants hydroponically in heated greenhouses. This fact has kept me (mostly) clear of their produce for awhile now. I am a devotee of Eliot Coleman, and I really do enjoy eating seasonally, until about April. That is when I start to see that the rest of the country has fresh, spring produce and I am still eating meat from the freezer.

We have a lot of choices to make about our food these days. I am not the first to say it, and I’m also not going to spend time rehashing the arguments for different choices. I generally go between local, organic, and seasonal. Local and seasonal are in short supply here, except for in summer. You can’t even get a year-round CSA, but rather a fall share that consists of a giant delivery of root crops and squash. Mr. B and I were talking to the tomato salesman, and I was happy to hear that he had moved back to Montana to work for Mountain View, and that his father also works part time for the company. Maybe the bigger issue for Montana than seasonal, local, or organic, is just making a living. Most of the state is aging as younger people leave to look for work. We have one of lowest minimum wages, one of the lowest annual incomes, and jobs are disappearing as we move away from an extraction economy (mining, logging) towards an uncertain economic future. Not only is Mountain View employing its current staff, they are actually hiring. Because they can grow produce year round, they also offer another elusive position in Montana: the non-seasonal position.

I think from now on, I’ll choose the cocktail tomatoes over the canned tomatoes. I’ll also keep buying pounds of tomatoes at the market from Mountain View, at least until the soil-grown produce shows up. I touched on this topic in an ungraceful way in my post on the family cow: while there are lots of books out there for the modern and/or urban farmer/homesteader, there aren’t any books on how to create a sustainable local economy. I think that it’s important to factor that into your food buying choices.

Article on Mountain View from the Flathead Beacon

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2011 6:39 am

    What a great photo of tomatoes! I’d have had a freak out joy moment too. Great post.

    • sue permalink
      June 21, 2011 12:28 pm

      my not so quiet freakout joy begins around april and goes through the end of november. spent an early, misty, cool sunday morning out at sauvies. driving over that bridge always feels like going home. still think the strawberries need at least another week of sun and warm to sweeten.

      • June 21, 2011 3:33 pm

        Ah, Sauvies Island….we just don’t seem to have places here where raspberries/blackberries grow wild like that. I still miss going there for berry picking and swimming.

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