Julie Johnson opened NourishMe in 2010 to bring her passion for nutrition and local food to the Wood River Valley community. We first featured her as a local food hero back in 2018. A whole lot has changed since then. This month, we caught up with Julie to update her food hero profile and hear what's changed at NourishMe over the past five years.
How has the demand for locally grown food changed in the past five years?
For sure, the demand has increased since 2018. The pandemic has increased people's desire for locally grown foods. People have become interested in what their own backyard (so to speak) can produce. Relationship awareness between health and high-quality, nutrient-dense foods has expanded.
What makes Nourishme a unique market in the Wood River Valley?
NourishMe is three stores in one. We are a supplement shop of high-quality food-based supplements and herbs. We are a deli making many premade grab-and-go meals, juices and gluten free treats. We also make the best soups and grilled sandwiches in the Valley. We use many locally grown products in our foods, such as eggs, greens, and meats. We are a platform for which our small farmers, gardeners, and ranchers can sell their products. Every Tuesday, we have a mini Farmers Market set up inside NourishMe. Our shelves are always stocked with products from Bellevue, Boise, Twin Falls and outlying areas.
What does local food mean to you?
Living in the high mountain desert means our technical term of "local" is expanded to 200 miles. We raise lots of animals within a hundred miles easily, including the wild animals harvested by local hunters. We grow grains and root vegetables from the Bellevue triangle through the Fairfield plateau. Fruit trees are also grown in the lower elevations. Seasonal greens are just that; seasonal for our immediate area. However, we encourage (by giving them a place to sell) small farmers and gardeners to use greenhouses for winter production. Given that we don't have enough greenhouses in our area YET, we source winter vegetables and greens from our regional partners. - Washington State and Oregon.
To you, what is the relationship between eating local food and health?
Food grown locally, in healthy soil, will have more vitamins and nutrients than commercially grown food sprayed with gut damaging chemicals such as glyphosate. We have many commercially produced foods in Idaho (local). In choosing a food that is local, one must distinguish between the two. Who grew the food? What methods did they use? How many hands has this food passed through? If it is a fruit, berry or greens, how many sprays were used and how often? If it is an animal, how big is the herd? How was it processed? If it is dairy, make sure it is raw. Raw dairy always comes from a small, well-tended herd, grazing on grasses and forbs grown explicitly as feed for the cows. The health benefits of raw dairy are head and shoulders above any commercially grown dairy. The two do not compare. One animal is healthy, and the other is sick. Choose only to put healthy animals and their products into your body. The regeneration of the soil goes hand-in-hand with regenerating our health.
The "Local" movement means to encourage regenerative (beyond organic) practices. When we buy local, we feel connected to this process. We get to meet the people who are in the trenches. Our nourishment and health start with shaking the hands of the rancher, farmer or gardener who grew the foods we are eating.
Local means less gas, less processing and fewer additives to keep the product from spoiling. The strawberry is a good example. They are so popular, yet so fragile. To make any profit from a strawberry one must find a way to grow tons (literally). Keeping them pest-free is v challenging because every mold, creepy-crawly, winged insect and bird also wants that strawberry; so large quantities of pesticides are used. The ground and crops are sprayed so heavily that the strawberry pickers have to wear protective clothing. Preservatives are sprayed before being packed and shipped hundreds of miles and States away.
The point is, don't eat commercially grown fruits - buy local and in season. Enjoy the changing flavors of the season and buy your local fruits and berries' flats in the Fall to freeze, dehydrate, or can for a little taste the rest of the year!
How has the variety of local/regional products that you offer changed over the last three years?
Variety has not changed so much as consistency. The challenge is to provide these foods weekly. Our consistently has improved as we have acquired more producers who can fill in the gaps.
What's the biggest barrier to offering more local produce, meat, eggs, and dairy?
Our biggest barrier remains our nonexistent processing infrastructure. We need a centralized USDA meat processor. We need large cold storage buildings. We need in State root processing facility. Currently, most of our organic potatoes, beets, carrots and squashes are shipped out of state to be sliced, diced, washed and packaged, and then shipped back again.
What change would you like to see in the Wood River Valley in terms of food?
We need a centralized staging area for cold storage and processing. This would create local jobs as well. An attached, functional greenhouse could extend seasonal growing as well. We also need more investment. To that end, I love everything Impact Idaho Fund has done to date.