farmers markets

Noteworthy Notes, February Edition

Links and pictures from around and about that impact our Washington life

While New England continues to get buried in snow on snow on snow, Washington State faces a dismally low snowpack year. We're only at 49% and the temperatures continue warm. Lower snowpack equals lower streamflow in the spring and summer, which equals bad news for farmers who depend on irrigation and bad news for folks who eat what farmers grow. 

Speaking of what farmers grow, check out this cool map from the Farm Bureau:

http://wsfb.com/agricultural-associations-washington-economy/

While the view is very high level, it's clear that growing food is big business in Washington. $49 billion in revenue, according to the Farm Burea. Unfortunately, the ongoing port slowdown is impacting our farmers' exports and what they will plant in the coming year.
Farmers markets are still a small piece of the pie, but it was good news to learn that King County will be holding off on raising inspection services fees for at least another year. Proposed increases would have raised food vendor fees by 42-264% and a market coordinator fee would more than double. I understand the inspectors would have to be paid for their time, and everyone likes the idea of food safety, but I do think Americans are a little overexcited about food safety. Visit markets abroad and you'll find unrefrigerated eggs and ambient temperature cheese and such. And I've taken the online course and gotten a food handler's permit, and all I can say is, if you eat at my house you take your chances because I'm not going through all that rigmarole at home.
All of which is to say, it looks like food prices will be rising this year. Plan accordingly! We King County folks do like buying organic, according to an article in the Puget Sound Business Journal, but remember--if it's on the Clean 15, save yourself some cash and buy conventional.
Thank you, Environmental Working Group!

The UrbanFarmJunkie Takes to the Road

Don't know what you all did over the Labor Day Weekend, but we took off across the state to visit the in-laws. And because I'm all about food tourism, I dragged everyone to the Pasco Farmers Market. Would you believe it--my in-laws, who have lived in the Tri-Cities for 57 years (gulp!) had never been to the Pasco Farmers Market!

Note the dedicated permanent awning!

Where's Pasco, you ask? Oh, right about here:

Why, thank you, bestplaces.net!

That location equals nice dry summer heat. And a fair amount of wind. And they sure grow some awesome things there. Things like

lotsa peppers.
So many peppers that they can do decorative things with them. Thus:
Or eat them and sell them, of course.
Look at those little bell peppers!
Then there were the 
ears of two-tone corn on the cob, crisp and sweet, which I ended up making into the salad I mentioned last year.
There were also funny squash I'd never seen before:
but which looked similar to the mutant butternut squash which have come up in our yard.
The homegrown oddball
Looks like a butternut inside...
The Pasco market sold baked goods and fresh cider like ours, and, instead of the hazelnut lady, we had the peanut guys.
There was one item I sure wish we offered at Bellevue--table grapes.

The grapes were as sweet as advertised, and it was nice to have some that hadn't had to come up from California. 
Altogether, it was worth the little drive out. But I'm happy to report that we are good and spoiled with the abundance, variety, and quality of foods on offer at our Bellevue Farmers Market. We may be back to school, but don't miss the bountiful fall harvest this Thursday and Saturday!

How to Handle Post-Market-Season Letdown

It's been 2-1/2 weeks since our last Bellevue Farmers Market of the season. The giant box of fruit I got from Collins is nearly spent, and I've officially run out of honey and had to buy my first carton of Stiebrs eggs at the store. It's a long way till May.

If you're suffering Post-Market-Season Letdown as I am, I have a few tidbits that might break your fall (and winter and early spring, as the pun might be):

1. The University District Market is still going. I know, I know--I haven't made it over there either. In fact, I should probably change the name of my blog to "SuburbanFarmJunkie" because I really hate trying to park in Seattle. So sue me. The U District Market claims you can park on the street (after circling the blocks countless times) or get tokens to park for an hour in four nearby lots. Haven't tried that yet, but may have to. Because you can find many of our favorite farmers and vendors selling there, and I miss them and their goodies! Plus, I still have memories of Preston Hill Bakery's Christmas stollen.

[image from SeattleLocalFood.com]

2. Make this the year you join Skagit River Ranch's Bellevue Buyers Club. Once a month you place your order, and it gets delivered to a home in Bellevue for you to pick up. Easy peasy. My order is coming today, thank heavens, with its roasts and eggs and such--even the turkey I pre-ordered but didn't pick up earlier because of my aversion to parking in Seattle (see #1).

Missing this face? Me, too! Along with all the good food she sells me. [Pic from SRR FB page]

3. Oh, and speaking of eggs, if you're just missing those wonderful eggs from Van Vuren Farms, with their orange-y yolks and their soy- and corn-free-ness, did you know they do online ordering with drop-offs in Kirkland, Seattle, or Mercer Island, every two weeks?

Awww....[pic from Van Vuren website]

Because the best gift you can give your family is good food! Talk about a gift that keeps on giving. When we support our local farmers and vendors, we're giving our family the gifts of a healthy local economy, a nurtured environment, and--better yet--we're giving them the gift of better health. As the rates of food allergies, diabetes, and cancer rise, the more real food we feed our families, the longer we can all go!

Lucky Duckies

Quack quack, yo. [CNN Photo]

Surely you've heard and seen by now of the giant inflatable rubber duck parked in Hong Kong's harbor, on its peacemaking journey around the world. (Fingers crossed it comes to the Puget Sound, but I bet danged San Francisco or New York will get it next!) Tourists have come. Rubber duck vendors have come. Local restauranteurs have cashed in with rubber-duck-shaped foods.

Well, I would like to say that tourism has other spurs than giant inflatable rubber ducks. Last week our own Bellevue Farmers Market was visited by a large host of Norwegians who were affiliated in various ways with the Bergen (Norway) farmers market! Seriously, people, if folks will fly halfway around the world to visit our Market, we know we have a good thing going. Not only did we participate in a goodwill t-shirt and Market cookbook exchange (email me if you need the recipe for Jordskokker og vaktelegg), but we learned lots about each other.

And what is a blog for, if not to share our learnings with you? I've got three.

1. Be grateful for our vegetables, their abundance, variety, and availability.

And these

The abundance of vegetables at our Market was the first thing our visitors remarked on. Norway, which comes in at Alaska's latitude, has a short, intense growing season. Not only that, but many fruit and vegetable farmers do not grow a variety of produce, rather focusing on one item and growing tons of it. Potatoes, say. Think monocultures in Iowa. Things are changing, but they're in the early stages.

2. Ditto the gratitude for flowers.

As with the vegetables, our visitors marveled at the number of flowers for sale.

3. Pacific Northwesterners are weather wimps. The Bergen Market runs from February to December. Let me repeat: the Bergen Market (latitude Alaska) runs February to December. And people actually come. The tents have blown away, they've had snow dumped on them, and one time they even had to flee into a nearby mall, but the Market must go on. Yowza.

Must...dig...out, so I can get to the Bergen Farmers Market (Photo: Toledoblade.com)

Thank you to our visitors! May we one day return the favor.

In the meantime, all you fortunate Bellevue Farmers Marketgoers who only have to drive a couple miles under (partly) cloudy skies, here's a recipe from the "Bondens marked" cookbook that can be made with all our fresh, local ingredients. (Thank you, Google Translate!)

Pasta with Basil, Pancetta and Egg Yolk
(Spagetti med basilikum, sideflesk og eggeplomme)

1 bunch basil
2 Tbsp flake salt (this seems awfully high--maybe flake salt is a lot less dense? Do to taste)
2 cloves garlic
4/5 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-1/5 cups olive oil
1-1/4 cups pancetta
1-1/2 lbs pasta

Pluck leaves from basil plant and chop in a blender with the salt, garlic, pine nuts and cheese. Add olive oil and mix until it's a smooth pesto.

Cook the pancetta over medium heat in a pan. Cool, chop, set aside.

Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and mix with pesto.

Transfer pasta to a deep bowl. Sprinkle with pancetta and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with extra cheese. Put the egg yolk on top and add a few whole basil leaves.

********************
See you all Thursday, rain or shine!

Belated Rock-Me-Like-a-Hurricane Post

As I mentioned in my last post (which seems a century ago), the family and I were going on vacation and I would be missing a week of UrbanFarmJunkifying. That vacation began in:

I'm just a bill, yes I'm only a bill

 and then moved to:

Lovely Lady Liberty, with her book of recipes

where I made a new friend named Sandy. Sandy turned out to be rather the controlling type, limiting my access to electricity, water, transportation, and heat. She finally ousted me and my family from our blacked-out hotel and forced us into the arms of a Brooklyn friend before we made our escape from New York, three days later than planned.

All of which is to say, I apologize for the lateness of this post! Food was on my mind the entire trip, although by the end it was more a matter of, will any place be open for business to feed us besides that one pizza place by the Empire State Building? Mayor Bloomberg's recent ban on supersize sodas became a non-issue. People were lined up at any open store or deli to buy anything they could, to eat or drink. My husband even bought $4/bottle Fiji water, which the label bragged had never been touched by human hands until you unscrewed the cap, to pour down the hotel toilet when the water went out.


Before we met Sandy, however, we encountered two farmers markets. The first was right by our Washington, D.C., hotel in Foggy Bottom. To my kids' disgust (they were exhausted from walking from the White House down the Mall and back to Federal Triangle), I stopped to take a couple pictures, and I had to buy some baked goods to appease them. I'm happy to report that the Foggy Bottom FreshFarm Marketgoers enjoy excellent lemon poundcake and "some kind of chocolate thing" my hub bought that drew groans of pleasure.

Instead of the honey purveyors we feature at our Market, they had a maple syrup farmer! From Maryland, of all places. I'd read recently that, because of global warming, most maple syrup production was moving to Canada, so I'm happy to find pockets of Maryland still cold enough to produce this treat.

Of course, if they're "Maryland's Largest Maple Syrup Producer," it looks like Foggy Bottom is lucky to have them and may not even a few years from now.

The second market was right outside New York's Museum of Natural History, and this time my son forbade me to stop and take any pictures. All I can say is, I think the mix of offerings was not solely "local"  because I saw bananas. And it was before Sandy could have blown them up from the Caribbean on her way through. New York has a long history of markets and farmers from surrounding areas making the trip into the City with fresh, local food. (How else, after all, could New Jersey ever have earned the now-mystifying moniker "the Garden State"?) I'm afraid, in Sandy's aftermath, with all the power and transportation issues, locals' access to fresh food will be seriously jeopardized for the near future. Another reason to keep sending thoughts and prayers their way.

Beyond shelter, power, water, easy transportation, heat, and gasoline, I'm so very grateful to be home. I could use a scratch-cooked meal made from ingredients I selected and prepared myself. Very much looking forward to Saturday's market. The fridge still has Millingwood eggs and Bloom Creek Farms cranberries, but that's about it! Can't wait to get my hands on some greens, brussels sprouts, potatoes, and onions. Maybe throw in some hot soup and a JuiceBox drink. Thanksgiving starts early in our house...