Ducks, Diversity and the Dirty Secret of Local Food

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Fresh Morning Owl Farm duck eggs
  • Guy Hand
  • Fresh duck eggs from Boise's Morning Owl Farm.

Shortly after the Sept. 11th attacks in 2001, Mary Rohlfing decided to give up her tenured professorship at Boise State and become a farmer.

“I felt that we needed to, on a grand scale, rethink how we were doing everything,” Rohlfing said of the nation as she collected duck eggs on a recent cold winter morning. “And it seemed to me that one of the big changes we could make to be more self-sufficient and safe in the world was to begin to eat more food that was grown closer to where we lived.”

Rohlfing succeeded in doing just that on Morning Owl Farm, eight acres of Foothills land in northeast Boise. She credits her small army of ducks for much of that success: They’ve helped clear the land of weeds and insects; they’ve dramatically increased the fertility of the soil and they lay more than a hundred eggs a day.

And yet, like many local farmers, Rohlfing can’t charge what it actually costs to maintain her ducks and produce those eggs. She called it “the dirty secret of local food,” a clash between idealism and economic reality that she worries could cloud the future of the local-food movement.

In the Dec. 21 BW, I spend time with Rohlfing and learn about ducks, agricultural diversity and the complex challenges that face local food farmers.

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