Local food is on the rebound, and I'm glad.
We have an independent, mom and pop produce market on Grand Ave. They are selling local, free range eggs, and hope to be offering more local produce as they get established.
Two years ago I couldn't find local, free range eggs. Last year they were sporadically available at the Tri-County Farmers Market and through the Barter Hours program.
This year, I have my choice. Besides the produce market, local eggs are for sale at Semillas, and a fellow named Gary Dahlquist sometimes drops by the Optic to sell his eggs direct to the customer.
The beef supply is coming along, too. Dan Flitner, of the Hobo Ranch, raises 100 percent organic, free-range grass-fed beef, just a few minutes outside of town. Flitner leases pasture from Werner Muller, another environmentally-minded local, and together they are raising cattle and healing the land at the same time. Dan is selling his beef directly to the public for $7 a pound in halves, quarters and 40 pound packages.
Free range lamb is also available, through Stonefield Sheep Farm in Rociada.
Some may ask why I am so excited about locally grown food. There are several reasons.
When you buy meat or produce in a chain supermarket, odds are that it has traveled at least 1500 miles before you bought it. That's wasting fuel, and its contributing to global warming. It's been estimated that the American 2000 calorie per day diet actually consumes 40,000 calories when the petroleum used to grow and deliver the food is factored in.
So in terms of energy consumption, local food is far more frugal. I like that. It is also more sensible in an economic context.
When I spend on food at a chain supermarket, a wee bit of my dollar goes to the store's payroll, but much of it is out the door and gone to wherever their corporate headquarters might be. That's a loss to the economy of Las Vegas. When I buy from a local farmer, or rancher, or from a local independent store that carries the products of local farmers and ranchers, most of that money stays here in Las Vegas and circulates. That helps all of us prosper. So from a purely monetary vantage local food is the way to go. It isn't necessarily cheaper in terms of sticker price, but it makes financial sense if you put your community first.
And that's not all. There is also the simple love of place. There is a french term popular among wine snobs, "gout de terroir." It means, literally, "taste of the earth." It refers not only to flavors in the wine imbued by the soil in which the grapes grew, but also more broadly to food and flavor as an expression of place. It is, some would argue, the heart and soul of a vibrant local cuisine. I like the idea that I am eating food grown in a place I know by people I know, rather than anonymous supermarket produce, grown by strangers and trucked in from an unknown place.
Lee Einer is the Optic’s features editor and a certified permaculture designer.