- Associated Press - Saturday, July 23, 2016

TROUTVILLE, Va. (AP) - There’s almost no red meat or fish on the table at Bruce Ingram’s Troutville home that he hasn’t hunted or fished himself. He and his wife, Elaine, raise chickens in their backyard, gather wild fruits and nuts, and buy food that has been produced locally.

They hope their book, “Living the Locavore Lifestyle,” published in March, will inspire people across the country to follow their lead.

Bruce, 64, teaches English and creative writing at Lord Botetourt High School. He has written more than 2,250 magazine articles on such topics as conservation, travel, outdoor life and raising chickens. His first five books, which include guides to the New and James rivers, appealed mostly to regional readers. However, his publisher is marketing “Locavore” nationally, hoping to entice others with strategies that Southwest Virginians have embraced for a long time.

Neither Bruce nor Elaine, who grew up in Salem and Clifton Forge, respectively, imagined that they’d be someday fishing, hunting, harvesting, freezing and canning much of their own food.

The Ingrams want people to know that nobody has to be an expert on hunting or gardening to be a locavore, a person who mostly eats food grown or raised locally.

“We were town kids,” Bruce says. When he was a boy, nobody took him fishing. Instead, he sneaked away to Mason Creek and taught himself to catch smallmouth bass, chain pickerel and sunfish. “I was repeatedly punished for my wastrel ways,” he said. “My parents said no good would ever come from my attraction to the outdoors.”

Bruce was about 33 when he made his first hunting trip, guided by his father-in-law. For Elaine, visits to her grandparents’ farm comprised the bulk of her childhood exposure to locally grown food.

Bruce, however, long felt drawn to locavore eating. He says that for more than half his life, he’s made it a goal to hunt and gather much of his food.

It took a while for his wife to become as enthusiastic. However, when Elaine was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, her doctor suggested consulting an oncology nurse chef for advice on how to boost her immune system with her diet.

“I tease her that she paid $200 for someone to tell her to eat like her husband has been eating all these years,” Bruce says with a grin.

Not long after, Elaine consented to raising chickens after being told the eggs of backyard hens are higher in omega-3 fatty acids than those raised in corporate settings. Their book details their experiences raising heritage Rhode Island Reds.

The Ingrams say their daughter, who lives next door with her family, is equally enthusiastic about the locavore diet.

The Ingrams raise some of their food at their 38-acre Botetourt County home; Bruce hunts there and on wooded property in Craig County and Monroe County, West Virginia - a total of 589 acres they acquired over the years with the income from his freelance writing. Of those acres, 412 are under conservation easement.

It’s not necessary to own land to live the locavore life, however. Nor is it necessary to go whole hog. “You don’t have to be 100 percent locavore,” Bruce says. “It can be 2 percent. Or 5 percent.” Some tips inspired by the Ingrams:

- Buy food at farmers markets and from local orchards.

- Sign up for farm shares from sources such as Good Food Good People in Floyd County.

- Buy a portion of beef or pig from a local farmer and stock it in your freezer, or shop at local butcher shops such as O’Brien Meats in Salem or Donald’s Meat Processing at Lexington.

- Buy eggs from the neighbor kids, or raise chickens in your backyard (15 pages of the Ingrams’ book offers stories and advice on raising chickens).

- Take part in a community garden, or raise just a few vegetables on your patio.

- Learn to hunt or fish (whole chapters in “Living the Locavore Lifestyle” are devoted to getting started on hunting and field dressing deer, hunting turkey, squirrel, rabbit and grouse, and on how to catch and fillet fish).

- Join conservation organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, or hunting and archery clubs, where seasoned sportsmen are often happy to share knowledge with an eager learner.

- Consult a book such as one we are giving away. “The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How” by Andrea Chesman gives tips on preparing and preserving local food, and even tells how to cut up a rabbit and cook with woodchuck. (To learn how to enter our drawing, see details at the end of this column.)

- Get word out among friends that you’d like to take the kids or grandkids fishing, nut gathering, or berry and grape picking. As long as you’re a gracious guest, some property owners are happy to offer you the use of their ponds or woods. “Local farmers and landowners in Botetourt, Franklin, Roanoke and Monroe counties have given me permission to hunt their places,” Bruce says. “Folks up and down our road have given me permission to pick berries from their land. We typically give them some jam from those berries in return.

“If I kill a deer or turkey on somebody else’s place, Elaine makes the landowner’s family some homemade cookies or bread. Or we give them some venison if they are nonhunters.”

Elaine, 62, calls herself an “apple snob” who only eats apples from local orchards. She points out, however, that “not every single bite we eat” is sourced locally. The Ingrams still shop at the grocery store. But they say that about 90 percent of the fruits and vegetables they consume are from local sources; 90 percent of their desserts are made with wild fruits and nuts; and 100 percent of the red meat they eat is from wild game.

Bruce wrote “Living the Locavore Lifestyle” in the span of about two weeks during his Christmas break. Elaine, who is retired after teaching at East Salem Elementary School and has written or co-written about 100 articles herself, contributed many of the recipes in “Locavore,” including catfish chowder, squirrel casserole and wild black walnut banana bread. Also in the book, the Ingrams call upon the hunting, gardening and cooking expertise of other Southwest Virginians.

As of earlier this month, the couple had nearly reached their goal of picking 10 gallons of wild blackberries. The berries will go into jams or be frozen for winter, when the Ingrams look forward to enjoying the just desserts of living the locavore life.

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