Every Meal & Every Dollar Counts

We arrived a little before six to the charming, old and quirky independent Mounds Theater, which is in a no-nonsense blue-collar neighborhood in St. Paul.

Note that we're followed by a burlesque show at the Mounds Theatre in St. Paul MN (Photo S. Yao)

Tristan helped us set up the projector and audio, and Raeann showed us the gated ticket booth from which tickets were sold. A couple of lovely ladies, Mary and Mary Joe, were the first to arrive and they took a seat in the cavernous space filled with seemingly incongruent artworks that somehow coalesced into an accidental harmony. Folks filled up most of the seats, and a few sat at the large circular tables on the side of the room. The film was projected onto a massive screen at the back of the stage by an aging projector which was carefully fortified by a couple of strategically placed bricks.

The conversation following was a dynamic one.

 Chef Lenny of the Heartland restaurant talked passionately about his upbringing in urban Hoboken, part of an Italian family that always ate well despite living on the edge of poverty. He's been a big part of building a local food movement in St. Paul and Minneapolis, sourcing his meats and vegetables from farmers in the region.

Chef Lenny Russo discusses the challenges of eating healthy on a budget (Photo by S. Yao)

 Valerie of Money Creek Ranch shared the story of how she ended up heading North to live and farm in Minnesota with Mike Fogel. Mike talked about having the rare privilege of seeing his once fringe ideas about raising livestock, particularly bison, go from being unheard of, and laughed at, to the main feature on menus at the top restaurants in the Twin Cities.

Valerie talks about how Mike brought her from Alabama to Minnesota. (S. Yao)

 Meg Moynihan talked about the unique challenge of working for the Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture to enforce and communicate organic standards, and at the same time, working with her fiancé as a small-time dairy producer, and having to jump through the various government hoops that she herself helps to set up.

Meg talks about the challenges of being a dairy farmer, and a government employee. (Photo by S. Yao)

 People in the audience discussed subsidies, ethanol, ways to convince family to change diet, and some of the best organizations and ways to stay up to date on what's happening in agriculture.

Another engaged Minnesota audience! (Photo S. Yao)

 As the impassioned discussion concluded, Lenny talked about the importance of purchasing with your food dollar, how that directly supports a specific kind of agriculture. From there, the story of Chipotle was shared, and how that may be the signal of a sea-change in our food production in America.

 The conversation continued long after it was officially concluded, it being almost a full half-hour before we carried our various materials back to the rental car.  

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published this page in Ruminations 2012-07-18 16:22:40 -0400