I met Megan at Lone Pine Coffee as I'm becoming a regular there and she bags their coffee when she's not making things happen on the local food front. She told me about Locavore and, after looking into it, I asked her to participate in this project. She's dedicated to improving her community and obviously working hard to do so.
Who are you?
My name is Megan French. I'm an Oregonian. I've lived all over Oregon. I'm often described as a hippy, though I don't feel like that at all. The reason being called a hippy bothers me so much is because when I say I care about something, that makes me a hippy. I've been realizing this with the recent political jargon... why does it make me liberal to give a shit about people in general? Or about the environment? Why is it liberal for me to think that everybody has the same basic values...? I lived in Eugene, so I know what the hippies I think of are - on the porch, smoking pot every day, talking about what they're going to do and never doing it. I hope that I can diversify myself from that image and actually help make the community a better place.
I care a lot about a lot of things. I'm über sensitive - I think I tried to avoid that for a really long time, but now that I've embraced it, it makes things a lot less complicated. I've been going down this local food path. I think that's what really introduced me to who I am. It started off in Eugene. I got a scholarship to go to school there and thought I was going to be a journalist. While I was getting that degree I was doing a bunch of other things that were completely unrelated. The first thing I did when I got there was look for green space on campus because I'm not very good at being around a lot of people. I found the urban farm there.
I grew up in Marion where everybody had acreage. We'd go across the street and pick beans and can them and that kind of stuff. Finding the farm took me back to that and got me started on my path. Then I was volunteering for non-profits over there. And working in every urban garden I could find. I ran a bakery for four years. Got out of school with that journalism degree that didn't really mean much. I keep trying to making it mean something, but it doesn't. (Laughs) I lived in Bend from middle school through high school. When I came back here from Eugene it was a way different place with way more opportunity. A lot more farms, a lot more... I hate to use the word culture, but people cared about a lot more things. Still going down that path with local food, which introduced me to environmental consciousness and led to my meeting all sorts of like-minded people in town.
What brought you to Bend?
I was born here and soon moved to Marion. My family moved to Colorado for a couple of years and came back to Bend because my aunt and my grandma both became ill. I did most of my growing up here - from 11 to 18. When I moved to Eugene it was nice to get out of town because it was getting kind of sad here. It was when the bubble popped and my dad was a contractor and we had the highest levels of unemployment in Oregon and that kind of thing. I was actually super nervous to come back - I had been in Eugene for almost eight years. I didn't know if I could come back to Bend. There used to be bar fights and you couldn't go out without something rowdy happening. The last couple times I came back, there was stuff popping up and I realized the air smells right. I don't know if that makes sense, but it smells like home. The burnt sage and you can tell it's going to be hot when it smells sweet outside. It feels like home, so I decided to try it out. It was funny because I knew all the roads in town, but I didn't know what was on them anymore. It felt like home, but it was way different than I remembered, which is probably a good thing. A lot more energy and a lot less sadness. A lot more motivation and entrepreneurship and that sort of thing, so it's been a really cool experience being back. I've been back just a couple of years, but it's crazy. It's so different. I don't see of the same people I used to see. It's all new faces. Every friend I have is somebody I met as an adult.
How do you contribute to the community?
Food is the center point of everything I care about. It has to do with the environment, quality, sustainability, community - breaking bread is the best thing you can do to meet new people - supporting a local economy. It's all about community building and creating the most healthy community that you can. Food is the epicenter of that. If we could change the way people think about food, then maybe they can start thinking about all these other things that are sort of revolving around it. My main goal is to make it so local food is accessible to people. It's still kind of seen as a little bit of a bougie thing and something you can't afford if you're under a certain pay level. I've been doing it since college. I don't know if that means putting a different value on food. I just try to take every case and make it work for them. One of my projects recently was the Fill Your Pantry event - a bulk-buying pop-up farmers' market. People get way better prices, they're able to eat that local food all winter long by buying a 40lb bag of onions or a 20lb bag of carrots. Trying to create things that are for people like me and changing the idea around it. That's why I was attracted to Locavore because there are so many different facets of it. The dinners - bringing people together, introducing the chefs to the farmers - trying to create that synergy. The food school classes - introducing people to new ways of eating or thinking about food or slowing down or trying to incorporate local food into their busy lifestyle. I enjoy the farmer programs that we have like Willing Workers on Local Farms - getting people who want to get their hands in the soil with people who need those extra hands for a few hours. My favorite part of this whole process has been taking people on an individual basis and trying to figure out what can work best for them.
Meeting all the farmers in the area, finding out why they do it, trying to make something that works for everybody. I found that here, at least, there's competition but it's seems like most of the farmers want to work together. They realize that no matter how much feed we can grow, it's going to get sold if we can further the movement. A lot of the farmers here are about community. They're not trying to fight against each other. The biggest battle is competing against Whole Foods or Safeway or others - not each other. So growing that local economy and community is what I like to do here.
Do you have a favorite memory from here? Or a favorite activity?
When I need a moment to myself I like going out to Meadow Camp and getting on the River Trail and taking my dog out there. There will be people there, but it still seems to say fairly quiet and people seem fairly contemplative when they're out there. I try to walk the Dillon Falls trail system completely once a year or so. I do archery and rifle hunting. That is my favorite time of year here. Really, archery hunting is endless side-hilling and beautiful sunrises. I haven't gotten anything yet, so (laughs) basically that's the point of going out. There are lots of beautiful places. I love the Ochocos. That's still a hidden gem. Everybody's up at Cascade Lakes partying and I go out that way and can be by myself and still see animals. It's really beautiful out there.
What do you wish for the future?
I'm always dreaming. I don't think I've ever been bored in my life. There are always a million things to do or think about. I like the direction that Bend is going. It excites me. When I go to things like the Rubbish Renewed Fashion Show and see how well it's doing and how many people are attending, when I go to the Green Drinks events at the Environmental Center, it's really fun to see so many people gathering just because they enjoy sustainability. My hope and dream is that we continue on this same trajectory.
At some point we might not be able to rely on tourists, so making sure to have locals frequent other local businesses should be a priority. I hate bringing this up, but especially with these recent political times, we need to put our money where our mouth is or vote with our dollar. Knowing that it might cost you a little bit more, but in the end, you are keeping your neighbors in businesses and keeping them happy. I think that is worth more money. Putting more value on things is really important. If people saw my food budget, they'd probably think it was absurd. It's really important to me. I live simply so that I can support those things. I like our trajectory and I think we need to continue to support our neighbors and not waiver from that because it's going to be more important in these next few years than it ever has.