Cultural divisions within our society appear in particularly stark relief these days. The weight of a million small rifts among us can seem, at times, insurmountable, as we harden into cultural islands. Perhaps one of the most prevalent of these partitions is the urban-rural divide. However, we’re lucky to find ourselves in an industry that can sow seeds of change: local food.
Few other industries are as influenced by both rural and urban interests as the Willamette Valley’s strong local food community. Rural people, including citizens, immigrants and migrants, work to farm and raise products for urban businesses, which are run and patronized by largely urban dwellers. All facets of this small but mighty community work towards a common mission: supporting a local economy and community, even sometimes placing philosophy over profit.
In our particular operation here at Laney Family Farms, we see strong ties between rural and urban interests in Oregon, a state where those two factions’ antipathies garner frequent media coverage. Each day, we spend the quiet morning hours with the animals, feeding and watering. We get the satisfaction and occasional frustration of a hard day’s physical work. We also support another rural family business, Mt. Angel Meats, with our USDA processing. Then, it’s off to the dense urban environment of the state’s largest city, Portland, to directly interact with and deliver to some of the city’s finest restaurants and butcher shops.
Each customer relationship of ours is a product of the type of two-way respect that we see as a cultural salve for the woeful divisions that surround us. For the local food industry to function, perhaps more so than in any other community, many different cultures and interests must co-exist together in harmony: urban, rural, American, global, capitalistic and communal. This can only be accomplished through respect. Chefs and butchers who purchase locally-raised products like ours show a dedication to building cultural cohesion through understanding of rural interests, just as rural producers who pursue urban markets do, by recognizing and respecting the value of the urban lifestyle.
Localism, and especially purported localism for pure profit, is far from perfect. Environmental, political, financial and sometimes even racial issues can poison the industry. However, if we can seek to foster mutual respect and continuing understanding, it may be our only defense against the sort of divisive provincialism that poisons and decays our great state. Together, we can bridge the gap between the city-state and the hinterlands. In this spirit, we are proud to walk the line between urban and rural and we tip our hat to all the producers, restaurateurs, chefs, servers, cooks, dishwashers, farm hands, and butchers fighting the good fight.