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Articles saboranch on 07 Dec 2009 05:06 pm

9/23/09- Bozeman Daily Chronicle article

Red Angus cow and Devon bull calf

Red Angus cow and Devon bull calf


Daily Chronicle- September 23, 2009       by Jenny Sabo





Clay Enos, a professional photographer from New York City, recently visited our ranch, referred here by the Community Coop as he traveled back roads across the country on a Vespa motorcycle.  Why here?  He was touring East to West using the online “Eat Well Guide to the U.S.”, traveling slowly and trying to eat locally grown food as he went, and stopped here for a meal and a chat between Bozeman and Helena.  Clay told me that in all his miles of traveling, he continually found that only the most expensive restaurants, countrywide, served locally grown food. Without a kitchen of his own, he said, it was almost impossible to find affordable, locally grown food.  No diners, few mid-range restaurants, had anything local.


Jeremy Roberts, a filmmaker from the Bitterroot, also shared a meal here yesterday, on his own journey towards a film about land use issues and open space in Montana.  Jeremy said that one of the few “benefits” of the current economic slowdown is that the ongoing disagreements between developers and environmental groups about the use and preservation of Montana open space have slowed.  No current building, no new subdivisions, means that no new land is being developed and covered with roads, homes, and businesses.  Yet this slowdown is temporary, human populations are rising, more people will move to Montana in the future, and all will need food and homes.


How can we fill this gap of services, this gap between good food and “affordable food“?  How can we maintain the open, beautiful Montana we all love?  For an answer, I go to an idea from Francis Saufmai, a farmer from a tiny island called Woleai, 500 miles south of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.  Francis recognized that he would be buried on his land, that his children and even great-great-grandchildren would live on and eat food from the land over his grave.  “Live as if we will be here forever.” 


Certainly, it is more difficult to live and work “at home” exclusively.  We must let differences fall away, forgive resentments, work with neighbors.  Do we knowingly deplete our soils if our children and grandchildren will be eating from those soils?  Do we look only for the highest profit, lowest cost materials if we buy and sell our products within our home communities?  


If we buy grain or hay from a neighbor for our livestock, and we don’t like how he uses irrigation water from our shared ditch, we need to work it out.  If the butcher down the road supplies our weekly meats and his children tease ours on the way home from school, we can’t just go somewhere else if we have committed to buying his local meats.  If our neighbor’s dog barks incessantly and we have committed to stay in our home for the rest of our lives, we have to be willing to discuss matters and come to a mutually agreeable solution.  When Mark and I moved here to Harrison, we were surprised by the lack of anonymity that exists in a small community– the benefit for us was that we are learning to take full responsibility for the way our personal decisions impact our neighbors’ lives.


Living and working “at home”, sustainably, forever, requires what I would call “true maturity”.   Ours is a young country, we have built our culture on the ability to move on to fresh ground, to find the best buy, the newest trend, the highest profit.  What if we settled into the maturity of a lifetime marriage to our home in which we live, to this community and landscape?  How would we treat our home if we planned to live here truly forever?


How would our landscape look if we committed to locally raised, affordable food in every kitchen in our valleys?  How would our towns and cities look if we tried to save the beauty and accessibility of our open lands for everyone, regardless of how much land each person actually owns?   What if we planned our development so that our great grandchildren still had clean water, clean air, good food, and affordable homes, and open space right here where we live now? 

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