Three or four clusters of people casually chat and mingle in a warmly lit room, as the savory smells of roasted potatoes and carrots, beirocks, and yak stew. The people in the room are largely strangers, but through the upcoming meal, they will become connected through food. Although we often build relationships over a dinner, this one is special because it is connecting rural to urban, consumer to producer, and the diner with the origin of their food.
For most meals we only know that the carrots may have came from California, that is at least what the tiny sticker from the store says, and the potatoes were probably from Idaho because that is where potatoes come from right? This dinner at The Garden in Park Hill (pictured above) was different, each item had a story and each item came from a specific place and people. The yak was from John and Zita in Trenton Nebraska and the bierocks were from Becky in St. Francis Kansas. Most of us have lost our connection to our food shed and we only see the last link in a chain of people and relationships that make our dinners possible.
The goal of the Meat and Greets, like this one, is primarily to promote the High Plains Food Co-op. However, they do more than that. They allow people to reconnect with their food and to understand the story behind what they are eating. It allows people to find out that yak is delicious, even though it sounds a little funny, and that yaks are a little easier to handle than cattle. When we allow ourselves to be satisfied that a potato might have come from the 83,642 square miles in Idaho, we are missing the wealth of our community and the connections we can have if we learn a little about the people growing our food. That is why eating local and the High Plains Food Co-op is so important because it is reconnecting urban consumers with this wealth of great food, people, and knowledge right outside the city.