“Farm-to-table” is an expression we hear a lot these days, describing food that is delivered to you with few, if any, middle men involved in the process. More than an expression though, farm-to-table is a movement that encourages us to know our farmers in order to know where our food comes from. The concept is that if we know who grew our food, we can also determine how it was grown, cultivated, and delivered. That knowledge allows us to decide whether the ethics of the farmer align with ours. Farm-to-table is not just some abused pop-culture term; instead it is at the forefront of a revolution in which people care about all aspects of what they consume.
Farm-to-table advocates are conscious. They’re wondering where the produce on their dish came from, whether or not it was treated with chemicals, or even what type of irrigation was used to grow it. They care not only about the taste of the food, but also what implications its production has on the environment, or perhaps workers' conditions. It’s all about care. Caring about what we support in this chaotic consumer world, and what we choose not to support. They’re navigating the dense, dark, and confusing world of consumerism that we all partake in. And that’s courageous.
Out of respect for farm-to-table, I’ve done my best to apply its principles to how I operate Deoria Made. When I began woodworking, I didn’t concern myself much with where my lumber originated, how it was cultivated, or what my purchase supported - I didn't know any better. But when I shopped at a lumber store which seemed to know very little about the life of the lumber they stock, I felt as though I was shopping at a big box store like Wal-Mart. The whole experience was lacking and left me feeling hollow as a result. As it turns out, many types of lumber internationally and even domestically degrade the forests from which they come, and sometimes even degrade the local economies they come from. Not to mention, these woods have to travel across the country, or perhaps even across the world to end up in the workshop. There’s nothing about that journey that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Learning this, I began looking into local lumber, and haven’t looked back since. “Local” was the first requirement I implemented into my new way of thinking, because the fewer resources it takes to get to my workshop, the better for the environment. In the same way that it doesn’t make sense to have strawberries shipped from another country when excellent strawberries are grown locally on Mt. Hood just outside of Portland, it didn’t make sense to have lumber shipped thousands of miles when we have great, and even sometimes superior lumber in our Portland backyard. The further I explored, the more I found that some lumber is “salvaged” rather than cultivated. That is to say that rather than growing trees for the sake of cultivating lumber, salvaged material is “saved” from the wood chipper. This just kept getting more awesome, and aligning more and more with my ethical ideals. I also found that if a particular species of lumber wasn’t salvaged, that it could be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which “ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.” After learning about all these things, woodworking became much more interesting to me, realizing that by woodworking I could be doing much more than just making nice pieces, but I could also be supporting good causes such as the local economy and the environment.
Goby Walnut was one of the first businesses I aligned myself with in this new chapter of Deoria Made, and they continue to be one of my favorite places to buy lumber in Portland. They have two of their own sawmills, five dehumidification kilns, and four vacuum kilns to dry their lumber. Needless to say, they are a major institution in the Pacific Northwest. While they specialize in claro walnut, they also stock big leaf maple, tan oak, madrone, ash, myrtle, and a score of other hardwoods, 90% of which comes from our home, Oregon. The other 10% comes as far east as Idaho, and as far south as Sacramento. They save so many trees from the wood chipper that they even wholesale to other lumber stores in the PNW. If you haven’t gone, go! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s walnut-Mecca.
For me, it’s an amazing treat to learn these details about the wood I use for Deoria Made. I love hearing a story about where a particular batch came from; that perhaps a home owner’s walnut tree in their back yard was beginning to die as a result of twig beetle damage, and that Goby came to the rescue, saving it from the wood chipper. This stuff matters. These details matter. The business is also run by a father son duo, and the knowledge of anyone working there is just amazing… but that’s just icing on the cake.
At this point, Deoria Made items are almost exclusively made with local materials. It's a great feeling knowing that it’s salved, or FSC certified, and I like heading into the store to hear intimate stories about where the slab of wood I’m about to buy came from. When I do use non-local materials, its either because a customer requested it, or because I came upon some second-hand. But if you’ve ever seen or worked with local claro walnut, or any of the other luscious hardwoods we have here in the Willamatte Valley, you’ll know they’re to die for. And why not use them? They’re sitting right here in our backyard, just waiting for the wood chipper, or perhaps a woodworker to honor its beauty, and make something useful out of it. That's how we do it at Deoria Made, and we hope others follow suit.