Ole McGregor

By on December 20, 2016

A winter farmer and local food maven is looking to make big shifts in the valley’s food economy.

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JACKSON HOLE, WY – “Do you guys have any bacteria inside of you?”

Ian McGregor is discussing how salami is made with a group of 8-, 9- and 10-year-old children as they begin a hands-on class making meatballs at Sweet Cheeks Meats butcher shop.

“Fermentation is the transformation of one food into another. It’s really fascinating to think about how alive your food is.”

The foodshed class, taught by McGregor and Scott Steen as part of Slow Food in the Teton’s Culinary Youth Project, connects kids with the sources of their food.

“The tendency with kids is for people to really dumb it down, but I just love taking [the level of conversation] way up,” he said. Indeed, after seeing whole animals hanging in the meat cooler, the kids had a lively discussion about probiotics, acid/base, and the transformation of food.

Teaching the foodshed class is just one of the ways McGregor is deeply rooted in the local food scene. McGregor, who grows food year-round, serves as president of the board of Slow Food in the Tetons, and is becoming one of the community’s food luminaries. He grew up in Jackson, studied English at Skidmore College and has traveled the world helping others set up innovative farming initiatives. While managing Front Porch Farm, a 100-acre diversified farm in Sonoma County, California, he really connected with farming and food as a passion and a career. For three years, he was able to grow everything from wine grapes to meat chickens to heirloom grains.

While in Chile working for the Tompkins family at Patagonia National Park, he helped put together bigger greenhouses, and set up a planting and a harvest schedule. The people of Patagonia taught him how necessity really does breed innovation. “They had a lot of motivation to grow their own stuff because a head of lettuce is $15,” he said.

McGregor also spent a year working at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture outside of New York City, an innovative working farm/educational center made famous by Chef Dan Barber.

Moving back to Jackson Hole in the midst of a tanking economy, McGregor planted a garden and sold salad greens and baked goods at the Farmers Market on the Town Square. (Remember the Guys Selling Pies? McGregor teamed up with Orion Bellorado for his first farm stand.)

When he worked at the Cakebread Ranch in Thayne, he recalls taking the animals down to Salt Lake City to be slaughtered. “Now the Wyoming Food Freedom Act is changing all that,” he said. “There’s a renaissance of small farmers.”

Wyoming was the first state in the nation to pass the FFA, which allows small meat (non-beef) producers to sell directly to consumers without going through a regulated processing facility.

Winter farming is just one of the ways McGregor hopes to make an impact on the local food economy. “Growing in the winter—I think that will be my niche in the food world.”

McGregor devised a low cost, low infrastructure mini-hoop setup to grow spinach, mache and collard greens. This year he’ll be adding leeks. “The mini-hoops are so short you have to crawl to get into them,” he said, “but they did really well last year, even though they were under 10 inches of snow for months.”

Enthusiastic about the future of food in this mountain community, McGregor noted, “being part of Slow Food has started me thinking about the future, instead of just what my niche is as a farmer. I meet people all the time who are trying to raise or grow something and sell it locally. I think this is the start of a big shift in buying locally based food.” PJH

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About Annie Fenn, MD

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at www.jacksonholefoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.

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