By Ande Finley
As we squelch into spring, our thoughts turn to our gardens and the bountiful food that this island produces. Showcasing local food and the dedicated farmers that grow it are at the heart of the Lopez Locavores’ mission.
Founders Jean Perry, Michele Heller, Kim Bast and Danah Feldman saw an opportunity to promote a sustainable food economy on Lopez through offering locally sourced community meals.
“My inspiration for the Evening Meals at School was the L.I.F.E. Garden Program at the school,” reflected Heller. “Perhaps it would be a way to demonstrate and extend some of the benefits of L.I.F.E. to the whole community – having affordable access to chef-prepared meals made from local, sustainably grown fresh whole food. “
January 2008 saw the first Evening Meals at School featuring white bean pumpkin chili and chocolate blackberry beet brownies. A phenomenal 250 islanders attended. That number continued to grow in subsequent months.
With the wild success of bringing the wider community into the school cafeteria, an ambitious schedule of monthly meals continued through May 2009. However, with each event requiring an enormous output of primarily volunteer energy, by the third season, it was soon obvious that quarterly meals made more sense.
Little did the fledgling group know that ten years later both the meals and the garden would still be going strong. March 29 will be the Locavores’ 51st meal prepared for the Lopez community, starring turkey stew with biscuits, rainbow spinach salad and a reprise of their unique and delicious chocolate beet brownies.
Admission is by donation only, but attendees are often more than generous.
“We are frequently asked what we do with the money we collect,” said Sue Roundy, current president of the board. “First, we pay our head cooks and food purveyors and the rest is turned back to the community’s use through donations to the Family Resource Center, the school kitchen, local farms and other organizations.”
Over the years, the Locavores bought a fridge for the Family Resource Center and an organic milk dispenser for the school, donated funds to provide free CSAs and WIC Farmers Market Bucks for use at the summer Saturday Market by low income families, provide scholarships for farmers to attend the annual Ag Summits, made donations through Vortex for the Community Food Bank, contributed significant financial support to launch both Taproot Commercial Kitchen and the Bounty Project, and purchased a grain mill for the Lopez Community Land Trust. In appreciation to the School for sharing their facilities, the Locavores have made frequent gifts to the School kitchen of appliances, pots and pans, and specialty wish-list items. Periodically, the group assembles to cook and stock the Lopez Fresh freezer with soup made with locally sourced ingredients.
In addition to Michele and Jean, the current Locavores board includes Sue Roundy, Marney Reynolds, Nancy Wallace, Ande Finley, Christine Langley, Aliza Finley, Heather Harrison and Dixie Budke.
Designed by Marney, the Locavores’ logo illustrates the group’s mission to reconnect with local food sources and eating seasonally, revitalize interest in our own health by growing and cooking our own food, and support food sustainability by modeling responsible land stewardship.
“Mainly, we want to demonstrate to islanders how delicious, local, organic food could be prepared economically at home,” said Perry, owner of the iconic Vortex Café
Join the Locavores as they mark 10 years of celebrating local food at their next dinner on Thursday, March 29, 5:30-7 p.m. in the school cafeteria. Proceeds will go towards purchasing another milk dispenser for the school. The final meal of the year is scheduled for May 24.