Thursday, August 27, 2009


Meat and potato guy Brent Olsen of Olsen Farms was kind enough to be my inaugural interview. He is so charming it's hard to picture him living in a ghost town, but he does. (It's called Aladdin, and it's nestled in a valley not far from the Canadian border and Idaho. And it really is a ghost town.) He's been growing potatoes for about 15 years, and in recent years has branched out into meat - he grazes cattle and sheep on his pasture land. His work is never done (and that's not even remotely a cliche in his case). If he isn't planting, caring for, or digging more than 20 varieties of potatoes, he's feeding cattle, caring for the row crops he grows for the market in Spokane, loading trucks, driving to Spokane or Seattle, selling at markets, or delivering to restaurants.

But watching Brent at the market, you'd think he had nothing better to do. He knows so many of his customers, and they all know him. He remembers what they've bought before and asks after their families, all with a great big smile, teeth and eyes sparkling from behind his enormous beard. He looks like a grunge rock star in overalls.

Brent was a particularly great first interview because he is an incredibly generous guy who, when asked what benefits of buying directly from small farms at the market he'd most like consumers to know about, he explained, without hesitation, that the money he earns in Seattle and Spokane goes right back with him to Stevens County, one of the poorest in the state. There he employs locals on his farm and spends money on food and supplies. In fact, he tries to do as much of his purchasing at home as he can.

There are so many reasons to buy local that sometimes it seems like no two people do it for the same reason. As consumers, the easy reasons are that we can get super-fresh product, and when we get it direct it feels like it comes with a personal guarantee. When there are unselfish benefits bundled in there, too, it feels even more like a win-win situation.

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