Only seven years ago, a California hamlet launched a newsletter that in turn launched the Edible Communities movement. Edible Ojai has since spawned more than 50 Edible publications across the U.S. and Canada, including one of its latest, edible Dallas & Fort Worth. Recently business took me to Ojai, a sleepy town of 8,000, closeted away like the mythical Shangri-La that Ojai once portrayed in Frank Capra’s 1937 movie, “Lost Horizon.”
Being in the Ventura County town was like stepping back in time to the San Fernando Valley of my youth, a world informed by cornfields and walnut and orange groves, a place where eucalyptus trees – beautiful, fragrant eucalyptus – towered majestically. All that’s gone now, paved over, subdivided and malled.
But in Ojai’s patchwork of small ranches and farms, orange and lemon groves, avocado trees heavy with fruit, and, yes, eucalyptus trees, I got to glimpse once more how it had been. My belief in the importance of promoting and preserving community-based, local foods and the simpler, sustainable ways of life that go with them was solidified.
This is what the Edible Communities, which stretch from Vancouver to the Blue Ridge, from Boston to the Hawaiian Islands, seek to do. These publications thrive not because someone wants to make a fast buck on a high-end demographic, but because they touch something seminal in us.
Dallas’ locavore movement has been slow to ignite, but in spite of economic uncertainty – or perhaps because of it – it’s suddenly catching fire. From the hoped-for revival of the Dallas Farmers Market to the launch of an online marketplace (EatGreenDFW.com), from the proliferation of local producers to heightened interest in community gardens, we are suddenly all about local.
Ojai was a poignant personal reminder that the ties to our land require stewardship and nurturing. Even now, Ojai struggles to hold onto its agrarian character. Like edible Ojai, edible Dallas & Fort Worth has the potential to anchor North Texas to its own agrarian ties and remind folks of the benefit and beauty of a simpler, more community-based life.