Tom Clyde: Farm-to-table
It’s hard to maintain even the pretense of productivity on days like this. And why bother? The hard freeze, however, did have me draining the center pivot irrigation system in the dark. It’s one thing to have a couple of sprinkler heads freeze and break, and quite another to split a pump worth several thousand dollars.
I enjoyed my bounteous harvest in the raspberry patch this week. OK, it wasn’t all that bounteous. There were four berries on one bush. But that’s four more than I got out of it last year. They grow wild (and sour) around my house in river cobble. But I’ve had a terrible time getting domestic berries to take hold. The bushes I planted this spring, after nursing them along in the house until mid-June, seem to have taken hold. So there’s great hope for next year — which is the farmer’s mantra.
The berries were big, sweet and juicy. When I discovered there really was fruit to harvest, the plan was to go out in the morning and pick them, dew fresh, then put them directly on the cereal for breakfast. The ultimate farm-to-table experience.
Instead, I ate them on the spot. Farm-to-gullet.
There was nothing wrong with eating them all at once. It’s the culmination of a three-year effort and dozens of transplanted and nursery-bought plants that died, fencing, sprinkler pipe, soil amendments and on and on. I figure I’m into each of those berries at least $100. Nobody ever said farm-to-table was cheap.
I just got back from a quick trip to Oregon, where farm-to-table is as ubiquitous as coffee shops and micro-breweries. The pear harvest was on, and Hood River is the pear capital of the world. Every meal had a pear in it somewhere. I don’t like pears. They seem like defective apples. So having a pear hidden in every meal was a little bit of a challenge.
They weren’t always hidden. Sometimes, the pear was the main attraction; a Hood River pear stuffed with some kind of free-range quinoa and artichoke, all assaulted with a blow torch until it was the color and texture of a Blizzak snow tire, then served with a lavender-infused carrot on a cauliflower crust. That was the pizza. You don’t want to hear what they did to a cheeseburger.
It is always interesting to visit other resort communities. Hood River is all about the Columbia River. The river is huge, and the parkland along the river bank is beautifully done and obviously treasured by the community. The kite boarders were out in the river, dodging barges of grain headed to the coast, and people were playing every sport imaginable on the grass. The town is nice. It’s less linear than Park City, more like Ketchum or Steamboat in terms of having multiple downtown streets and blocks. The cycling along the river is amazing. There is an old highway that was actually built more as a tourist attraction in the Model-T days than a real transportation route. It’s just playful with swooping curves and climbs to dramatic viewpoints. There are waterfalls all along the way for added appeal.
Another day we rode out through the farm country (pear orchards) toward Mount Hood. It had been shrouded in smoke for weeks, but was clear as could be the day we rode there. Beautiful.
After a couple of days, we shuttled down to Bend. Bend has the Deschutes River as well as the mountains. It’s in the dry part of the state. The town was busy. Busy to the point of wondering how they could put more people in it, but still very appealing. They have had a big growth spurt. It’s now about 100,000 people, having added 25,000 in the last 10 years. We rode out of town through some of the newer neighborhoods. They are nicely done, and had a lot of appeal. As well they should, given the price tags.
It’s clear that both Hood River and Bend are dealing with the same problems we face here. They seem to have been able to maintain a higher proportion of what looked like locally owned, family businesses in the downtown than we have. There were actual barber shops on the main streets. They both also have their equivalent of Kimball Junction, with that “anywhere USA” look and mix, which our trip leaders managed to shield us from. We did, however, ride through a new support commercial area in the town of Sisters, where I saw proof that a Les Schwab tire store can be attractive. You got a case of pears with four new tires.
The problem of homelessness was huge. Every freeway cloverleaf was a tent camp. We’re not completely free of that issue, and maybe the cold climate limits it. But it was clear that there is no place for workers to live, and so there are no workers in the businesses. The problem is everywhere, but seems more extreme in resort communities with a higher proportion of service industry jobs and shocking housing costs. That third-world poverty on the edges of thriving, wealthy communities is disturbing. I wish I knew how to solve that one.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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