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Talent Farmers Ate Locally in the 1860s

As It Was - Episode 2260

It has been eight years since the Rogue Valley’s “Eat Only Local Challenge” got underway with participants trying to consume only foods grown in the region. The Challenge motto is “Know your farmer, know your food.”  
Settlers knew exactly where their food came from 150 years ago, and nearly all of it was local and organic.  On his own farm near today’s Talent, Ore., Welborn Beeson grew wheat, oats, rye, pumpkins, onions, squash, potatoes, corn, peas, and tomatoes.  He had apple trees, raspberry bushes, grape vines, and melons.  Cows provided milk, butter, and cheese, and he had enough chickens to sell 23 dozen eggs at a time.  When Beeson wanted meat, he killed one of his pigs or went hunting for deer, rabbits, quail, or grouse.  He traded among his neighbors for blackberries and currants. By 1860, honey became available for trade on Sam Robison’s farm.  Another Talent farmer, Al Rockfellow, grew the best peaches.   
Early Rogue Valley residents bought some imported food, including sugar, salt and coffee, at grocery stores in Jacksonville and Phoenix. 
In the summer of 1861, Ashland farmer John Walker surprised his friends with an oyster dinner.  
Sources:  "Eat Local Challenge." Mail Tribune. 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 19 Sept. 2013. http://www.mailtribune.com/eatlocal ;
Beeson, Welborn. The Diaries of Welborn Beeson, 1860-1863. Talent, Ore.: Talent Historical Society Archives. Print.

Amy Couture has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oregon, a master’s in teacher education from Eastern Oregon University, and a master’s in history from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  A former teacher and cross-country coach, she is the author of 14 historical vignettes in the book, Astorians: Eccentric and Extraordinary.