Green Racing Project – An Alaskan Localvore

Tim Reynolds
Posted January 26th, 2010

The Green Racing Project arrived in Anchorage, AK, yesterday evening to compete in the 2010 National Cross-Country Ski Championships. Kincaid Park in downtown Anchorage hosts this final week of qualification races for the Vancouver Olympics and Junior World Championships Teams. Our team is excited—we’ve got Olympic hopefuls and eligible juniors among our ranks, and we’re looking forward to what the week’s races will decide.
The competitions only last a painful portion of an hour of each day; a big part of any trip to the races is downtime. That means we have plenty of brainstorming time for new projects at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in the upcoming off-season. The seven of us Green Racing Project teammates have been scheming and dreaming about how to better fulfill the mission of the Outdoor Center and the goals of our racing team in the coming year. We’ve also got a few projects simmering on the front burners, and somehow, spending a week a few thousand miles away in Anchorage brings the issue of food systems closer to home.
Grocery shopping at Safeway on Northern Lights Boulevard in Anchorage this afternoon underlined some of the real costs of food we don’t always notice in the lower 48. Everything is more expensive up here. It makes sense though—while our host family informs us there is a fair amount of local produce and farmer’s markets in the summer when the sun is shining almost 24/7, there is no local meat or dairy, and all the processed foods have to be flown or shipped in to feed Anchorage. It’s a long haul from Kraft Food Global headquarters in Illinois to Alaska. At home, we don’t always notice the costs of moving food from its place of production to the mouths of consumption. But up here it’s impossible not to.
Since we moved into our house last summer at Elinor’s Hill in Craftsbury, getting local food into the dining hall has been a priority, but it’s a difficult transition. It involves changing traditional menus with seasonality, diversifying and therefore complicating food orders and deliveries, and in general a lot more thinking about where we are buying our food.
In Craftsbury, we’re surrounded by local dairy and vegetable farms that are pumping out produce for a good chunk of the year. Pete’s Greens is only three miles from the dining hall at the Outdoor Center, and Strafford, Monument, and Mansfield Dairies are all pretty close by, too. There is no reason not to patronize our local food producers. We may end up spending a dollar more here and there, but oftentimes the more business these producers get the cheaper they can sell their products. Having a guaranteed customer like the Outdoor Center dining hall, serving over 10,000 guests a year, can make a small local food producer solvent and sure of the future.
We are also teaming up with Sterling College and Craftsbury Academy right on the Common to pool our collective buying power. We are the three biggest consumers in Craftsbury and together we can put away a whole lot of food. While none of us can necessarily pay the premium prices Pete may get for his greens at your local co-op, when we’re buying for such a large number of people we can be much more persuasive. Pete is excited about the über-local food system this relationship will create—what could be better than selling your produce within a three-mile radius of your farm?
The point is, in Anchorage there isn’t much to satisfy the hungry localvore. But in Vermont, there are plenty of options, and it’s a shame to be shipping food from Kraft Global that we can make just fine closer to home. The Outdoor Center is aiming to get a third of its total food purchases from local sources in the New Year. It seems a worthwhile resolution.
Tim Reynolds grew up in Bristol, VT, and is a recent graduate of Middlebury College. Skiing, running, biking, and climbing keep him pretty busy, and he’s excited to be contributing to Vermont Sports after many years reading from the sidelines.