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Localvores

10/03/07 4:24PM By Ron Krupp
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(HOST) Commentator Ron Krupp observes that Vermonters have deep roots when it comes to "eating local."

(KRUPP) You may have heard about a new movement afoot in Vermont where people choose - as much as possible - to eat food produced within 100 miles of their homes.  Perhaps you've tried it yourself.  The folks are called localvores.  They're sprouting up all over the Green Mountains, and I believe they could learn a lot from Vermont families who lived over a hundred years ago, since back then Vermont was largely self-sufficient.  

In 1923, in the towns of Randolph and Royalton, 98 percent of households kept vegetable gardens, 97 percent had milk cows and poultry, 93 percent grew potatoes, 58 percent raised pigs, and 54 percent had apple trees.  Maple syrup provided sweetening; hard cider provided drink; and produce, berries, and meat were enjoyed year-round from canning, pickling, smoking and root cellaring.
 
Two foods central to the New England diet in the early 20th century and back in colonial times were beans and corn.  Baked beans were a staple.  The beans would be soaked and left to simmer for one night and then baked all day in the wood oven. Corn was the other favorite food.  It appeared as cornmeal mush, cornbread or "Johnnycakes," and "succotash" or corn and beans.  Vermonters grew two types of corn.  The first type was sweet corn, such as Golden Bantam - eaten fresh off the cob or stripped from the cob and cooked for succotash.  The other was flint corn, which was a harder variety - dried and ground for cornmeal or used for grain to feed livestock.  
 
In Vermont today, there are a myriad of localvore groups.  They are working with local farmers to get them to produce more basic food items.  Sunflower oil and cornmeal are being produced at Butterworks Farm in Westfield.  Whole wheat flour comes from Gleason Grains in Bridport - yellow-eye beans from Hazen Bean Company in North Hero - cider vinegar from Honest to Goodness in Vershire, popping corn from Brigante's in Colchester, and rolled oats from Gourdreau's in Compton, Quebec.  The challenge the farmers and producers face today is that they can't produce enough to meet the demand.
 
I'm not sure where I fit into the localvore picture, as I'm not one to join groups; but the other night a friend and I created a meal from vegetables I grew in my garden.  We had winter squash and potatoes and slaw from my carrots and cabbage.  The only foods not from my garden were homemade mayo and applesauce, and butter made from raw milk from a local farm.  The mayo was homemade with eggs from my friend's chickens - though the oil and salt was purchased.  And the applesauce came from wild apples picked off of trees nearby.  Now that was a great way to eat locally, if I do say so myself.   

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.
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