EDITOR’S NOTE Francophiles and lovers of meat: This is the last of a week’s worth of postings from Washington food blogger Cathy Barrow, who was invited to attend Grrls Meat Camp at Kate Hill’s Kitchen at Camont in Gascony, France. The group of women met farmers and butchers, observed daily life, collaborated at workshops, cooked lots of great meals and ate very, very well. Search the All We Can Eat archive for Cathy’s previous posts.
This week at Camont, conversations about the craft of butchery and charcuterie happened day and night. Beyond these meaty chats, we are trying to ask big questions. We want to figure out we might bring French food sensibilities back with us. We want to remember to stop for a leisurely lunch and to look up at the sky.
Respirer. It’s the French verb “to breathe.”
There are those of us who are more experienced, who have seen the world of food change and improve. Then there is the younger contingent, who pursues a local or organic or non-processed food life with ease, wondering why in the world anyone would eat any other way.
Oregonian Sarah King, 27, who, with her husband, Bubba, have developed The Collective to create a community to create, share and explore the creation of local food and drink. Sarah says, “We’re fortunate that where we live there are many small farms. We have access to great food and drink.”
Sarah’s grandparents, Howard and Jackie Tribbett, farmed strawberries in Willamette Valley. When Christiane Chapolard used a French expression that roughly translates as “they were born with their feet in their boots,” Sarah thought immediately of Howard and Jackie. And perhaps more importantly, the Tribbetts have continued to put those boots on every single day, including their current organizing at the local food bank and finding the resources to ensure their community eats well. They nourish and sustain families that can grow and contribute to the community, too. This commitment to the community is what they have passed on to all their children and grandchildren.
About four years ago, Sarah realized that an interest in food was best inspired when excellent product is available. Unable to find locally produced items at the local large grocery chain, she knew there must be a better way.
Newberg is a town of about 35,000 that’s 20 miles southeast of Portland; at that time, it had no farmers markets. Sarah began by driving onto farms, asking what was available and purchasing the seasonal products in quantity for preserving. One farmer would introduce her to another. Eventually, she became a part of the tight-knit group of local farmers, and they began to anticipate how they might work with her.
As she got more comfortable in those relationships, Sarah asked whether she might get a better price for quantities or seconds. Friends heard what she was doing, and then they wanted to get in on the deals as well. By the same token, the farmers began to realize Sarah could help them move their surplus. Soon, the weekly orders increased. Eighty pounds of tomatoes grew to 250. Fifty pounds of locally milled flour shot to 600 pounds. Sarah became a broker, of sorts, creating partnerships with consumers and farmers. And that is how The Collective was born.
Flash-forward to 2010. Sarah read a Mix magazine article (published by the Oregonian) by Grrls meat camper Camas Davis about a local man who was processing his own pork. In her inimitable way, Sarah charged ahead. Clearly, she and Bubba couldn’t raise and process pork at home on their quarter-acre — although they do have four chickens and four ducks in the back yard. But they could find land and make it happen. Whenever she’s inspired, Sarah’s first thought is, “We can figure this out.”
What has become apparent to every one of us at Camont is that nothing will stand in Sarah’s way. She walks the walk. She will grow, create, process and cook every single thing she feeds her family. And her commitment is infectious.
Bubba and Sarah rent property three miles from Newberg, and although both have “real jobs,” they can be found at the farm at least twice a day. In the mornings, they feed their nine pigs, and in the afternoons they check in, provide fresh water and pet the animals. They want them to be tame and friendly so children can visit, interact and understand the source of their food.
Here at Camont, Les Grrls are in awe of Sarah. We love what she is doing and expect she will inspire others. She represents the future — where farm-to-table is not a concept, it’s simply a way of life.
A bientot, Camont. Until we meat again. (I couldn’t resist.)
Cathy writes Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen, sharing recipes, food preservation techniques and stories. She is the co-founder of Charcutepalooza, the year-long program that challenges 400 bloggers to learn to make charcuterie. She has been featured in The Washington Post Food section, on Food52.com and on National Public Radio.