Making a difference. That is the focus of Sandpoint’s Earth Day celebration this week. While communities worldwide celebrate Earth Day’s 40th anniversary, the Idaho Conservation League and Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper will host Sandpoint’s third annual celebration.
The free event will bring together more than 20 organizations who share a common goal – to educate people on how they can make a positive difference and protect the Earth not only today but for generations to come.
Organizers have planned activities and displays for everyone from preschool to retired members of the community. Children’s activities include crafts, a movie and a scavenger hunt. Representatives from the Idaho Fish and Game Department’s Watchable Wildlife education program will also be on hand to give children a chance to see live owls.
Other activities include a free tree sapling giveaway, a book signing by Jane Fritz, author of “Legendary Lake Pend Oreille,” and demonstrations on how to make nontoxic home cleaners.
One of the main attractions of the evening will be the participation of chefs from several area restaurants who will prepare full dinners using locally grown ingredients.
This is the third year that Emily Levine and Sarah Rusnak have worked with the local Earth Day event, helping to bring awareness to the fresh produce available throughout the year in Sandpoint and the surrounding communities.
In years past, Levine and Rusnak have contacted local farmers, picked up donated food and cooked for the event themselves. But this year Levine said will be a bit different.
“We are involving local restaurants who will each prepare one dish,” said Levine. To support those participating restaurants, Six Rivers Market, a Web-based food cooperative that markets locally grown products, will give each restaurant a one-month free membership.
“I think Six Rivers Market is a really amazing organization and resource for local food,” said Levine. “It bridges the gap between producers and consumers.”
Mimi Feuling and Rob Fredericks of Cascade Creek Farm in Bonners Ferry have been involved with Sandpoint’s Earth Day event since the beginning. Over the last two years they have supplied most of the meat, wheat and some of the eggs used by Levine and Rusnak.
Feuling also sits on the board of directors for Six Rivers Market and is excited about what the cooperative has done for the community and that it is able to assist in this year’s celebration.
“Six Rivers producers have a pretty good selection of items, even though the weather is pretty iffy,” said Feuling, who adds that there is grass-fed beef, pastured pork, natural lamb, yak, and bison for meat choices. “We have local farmers’ cheese, cheddar cheese, goat chevre, raw goat milk feta and eggs. There are greens – lettuce, spring mix, spinach, fresh rosemary and nasturtium.”
But the products available are not limited to meat, vegetables and dairy. There are also honey, salad dressing, barbecue sauce, jam and syrup.
Levine, who owns local farm Red Wheelbarrow Produce, said she first became involved with promoting local food when she lived in Minnesota. There, someone invited her to participate in a local food challenge where they ate only food that was grown within 200 miles of her community. When she moved to Sandpoint about four years ago, she saw a need for more produce in the area and believed there was a demand that would support more local farms. It was then she decided to start her own and is pleased with the support the local restaurants have shown.
“We have a lot of restaurants and cooks that are very supportive of using local foods and who have been shopping at the farmers market,” said Levine.
Feuling agrees that purchasing locally grown and produced food will benefit everyone and it is that message she hopes to convey at the Earth Day event.
“Buying local gets the consumer fresh, healthy, nutrient-rich food,” she said. “It supports the local economy and builds the fabric of our communities.”
Levine said she hopes the Earth Day event will help bring awareness to what produce is available in the community year round.
“Hopefully it will have a snowball effect, with people starting to demand more local food; the quality will only increase as more producers will in turn increase their production for the off-season,” said Levine.