CONNECTING TO FOOD


This Easter was my first in Montana, and boy, you can't get any more Montana than meeting your meat. My cousin and I were in Missoula to see Gaelynn Lea perform and to go to his old church, but by pure coincidence, we ran into one of his old friends, a sheep rancher named Nels. He invited us to see his farm, and so we made the beautiful half hour drive out to Lolo.

We were greeted with elk stew, fresh green salad, strawberries served on a handmade ceramic plate, and black coffee. Over lunch, we discussed the finer points of land management, the sheep industry, and the morel mushrooms that would be popping out of earth that had burned last summer. Once the dishes were done, we bundled up in old coats stashed in the 100-year-old ranch house's mud room and trekked out to see the spring lambs. They looked like wrinkly puppies, all legs and tails, and had names like Sinatra and Kanye. Nels explained to us that we could see them again in a few weeks, but they'd probably be in the cooler section of the Orange Street Market. We left the lambs to their moms and went to play with the big farm dogs and attack-donkey in the pasture. Rolling around in the grass, we talked on bear hunting and the unfettered development that created the huge gashes down Lolo Peak.

The next day was Easter, and after church service, we headed down 93 to another friend's house for supper. Amid platters of potato salad, ham, and deviled eggs was a beautiful lamb shank. Kanye.

It's a blessing that we as Montanans have such a connection to the food we eat and the land it comes from. Though most days I'm sitting in an office trying to figure out which food goes where, how many grams of sugar are in it, and if it meets the minimum grain requirement, experiences like this one bring me back to the core of what I do. When we nourish our kids with local food, we take care of farmers and farming practices that make up the backbone of our state.

Haley McKnight
Montana No Kid Hungry-PRC AmeriCorps VISTA
Butte, MT