Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sustainable farming

One of the reasons I felt it was important to retire in the Pacific Northwest is to be able to buy food from local sources and live somewhere that has a rich legacy of sustainable food practices. Being close to the ocean means that the fish I buy hasn't been shipped from thousands of miles away. In landlocked Boulder, it seemed almost ludicrous to go to a sushi restaurant, for example. Where did that fish come from and how fresh is it? Not to mention the fossil fuel needed to get it there.

Look at the incredible variety of squash and pumpkins at the Bellingham Farmers' Market in the picture. I used to frequent the Farmers' Market in Boulder, but of course I never saw such a variety. They had some different kinds of squash and I discovered spaghetti squash, along with several wonderful root vegetables not available in grocery stores. The growing season is different when you live at 5,000 feet elevation. The entire sustainable food and farming movement tries to help us get food that is grown or harvested within 100 miles of our homes. Here in Bellingham, this includes many wonderful farming communities and a wonderful organization, Growing Whatcom CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which allows a customer to purchase all kinds of foods directly from the local farmers. Whatcom is the name of our county, the northwestern-most county in the nation.

In researching this post, I learned that both the Bellingham and the Boulder Farmers' Markets were started by enterprising college students. Here, two Western Washington University students had a vision to have locally grown food for sale in a convenient area, and with their hard work and ability to draw others into their vision, it started in 1992. I cannot imagine a Saturday during the summer that doesn't include a trip to the incredibly vibrant market.

They also have buskers. Buskers are street performers, and you see them in various spots around the market. Each busker has to get a permit and sign up for one of the spots around the market. They are only allowed to be in a particular location for an hour, and then they move to another spot. Here's a lovely little busker from this summer, with her permit prominently displayed.
Remember you can click on the picture to enlarge
I see people from other parts of my social life in this Saturday community setting. It's a fun place to go for my veggies, and although I pay more for them, they can't be beat for quality, and I'm helping to support the local farmers. Sustainable agriculture and sustainable farming means that this beautiful violinist will have the opportunity to share the same blessings I have with her own grandchildren.

Although this post is getting a little longer than I intended, I also wanted to share with you another organization that I just learned about: the Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network, located in Mt. Vernon, just a few miles south of Bellingham. It is a grassroots organization dedicated to helping strengthen family farms here in Washington. I had been told about it and will be signing up in the spring.

After hunkering down for the winter months, you can bet I'll be there at opening day for the Market in April, heralding the new spring season and all the wonderful foods soon to be available to me.


  1. What splendid colors,and all that freshness and variety to choose from !
    I like to buy from the local farmers market, although it is quite small compared to the larger city of Nashville.
    We have the buskers in England also, they are usually very entertaining.
    Enjoyed this post so much.

  2. Those really are varied. How wonderful. I read about your visits to the farmers market with envy; ours is not so impressive. I agree with you that it's worth a bit extra to have fresh foods that are locally grown. I feel like it's so much better for everyone involved.

  3. we really dont have a great farmers market here...when we lived in NC and FL we had great ones...and went oftne...cute little busker...

  4. I like farmers markets, too, and try to get to several during the summer. We have a small one in Burien, but a large one farther away in Puyallup. And of course, we grow some fruits and vegetables in our own garden. Unfortunately this was a poor garden year around here.

  5. Our farmer's market here is limited...but growing in popularity. We have two types of markets...the Green Market that pays attention to organics and sustainability, and then the market that sells everything and anything. The group from the Green Market keeps it on the hush...and meets at a small restaurant during the colder months. I'm not sure why they feel the need to keep it quiet...
    The idea of sustainable food seems more accepted fortunate. The new focus here is an old warehouse building in Oak Park that is being repurposed to raise farmed fish on the lower levels, and then the remaining floors will be used for farming veggies. All of this inside a city should be interesting. They are looking for volunteers...and it seems something that might be fun and at the same time able to see the workings of this new city farm. I have read that in an event of catastrophe the cities would be hard pressed to get this seems a good thing all the way around.
    Will you be dehydrating your veggies?

  6. Yes indeed, we thoroughly agree with the concept of supporting local business. We don't have farmers markets in this little town but we have been buying our groceries at the local store and talking to them about us buying here instead of driving to the next larger town. I really like the picture of the little girl with her violin. Is she the youngest busker at the market? Are all the buskers musicians?

  7. We didn't go to our Farmers Market this year. We kept saying we needed to go and time just got away from us. Looking forward to life slowing down in the future so we can enjoy the veggies and fruit from our market.

  8. We live at around 5,000 ft, so our local produce does not have the variety you have in Washington. I loved the farmers markets when we lived in Portland. Surprisingly enough, the Minneapolis/St Paul area didn't have really great farmers markets, at least none that I could find near to my home - and none of the vendors sold organic. You really are smart to live where so much lovely, local food can be grown. I ordered my turkey from Heritage Farms this year. Expensive, but I wanted it to be raised in an environment of sustainability and humane treatment. Sometimes you have to pay more to encourage this type of farming.

  9. You need good fuel for all those up hill hikes. We just took a hike in the rain forest here in MN today. At the conservatory that is.

  10. We don't have a farmer's market here, one of my great laments. The produce looks just fantastic. What magnificent colors.

  11. I have been reading about the Farmers Markets in Washington and in Hawaii recently, and have been tempted to go to one nearby. Fortunately, one local blogger gave me the link to a website that shows the schedule on the island of Oahu.

    There are markets everywhere on Oahu throughout the entire week, believe it or not. I hope to visit one a few miles from my home on Saturday. It's going to be open for just 45 minutes, though, and then I guess the farmers will move to another destination.

    Can't wait to be there!

  12. I'm envious! Our farmer's market is closed till next summer. It is limited fare anyway. Local supermarkets don't bring in much of worth. Usually been on a truck too long from somewhere far away and grown by a corporation so has little flavor. The last two acorn squashes looked beautiful and were tasteless. Often the vegetables are so bad if they were in my own 'frig I'd throw them out. Still they are for sale at outrageous prices. And they will not sell them at lower prices with spots, or limp when they're supposed to be rigid. Pretty bad for a vegetarian, eh? When I travel to almost anywhere, I grocery shop for pleasure. What I have to remind myself of is - WV's total population is less than the county I grew up in and most of them aren't interested in fresh veggies....

  13. What would we do without farmers' markets in the summer, you know how much I love them. Our market has closed for the year but there are still local fruitstands where I can find the winter crop vegetables.

    Everything sold in our market is from our own valley or nearby Oregon farms.

  14. A whole lotta people need to start planting or learning how to plan, prepare and plant vegetable gardens and begin to pimp city hall for permits to raise chickens in their back yards. Nothing sacred nor should there be about lawns anywhere. I take a leak in mine all the time.

    I replied to your comment on my post.

  15. Markets like this with dynamic community involvement takes some good planning and foresight. How wonderful to see it action.

  16. We have farmers' markets over here in England too D-Jan. They usually come and mix in with the ordinary markets and provide much needed diversity from supermarket fare.
    Your pumpkin picture is superb. The colours are out of this world.
    The little busker is so sweet isn't she.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Blessings, Star

  17. What a cute little gal..buskers..what a quaint term!
    Well here in Minnesota most people don't eat raw fish..I have never eaten raw fish or meat..I know..I just don't think I would be able to swallow it.
    We do have farmers markets..but mainly people with huge gardens usually share...our grocery stores carry local produce..mainly corn, potatoes and squash...but things like honey and jams and jelly are readily available too.
    I should have a larger that I have time to tend it:)

  18. Awwww, I'm so jealous here. As winter moves in we're pretty stuck shoppin' our produce at the local Wally-World. I love the color of the first pic and the little fiddler is just precious!

    God bless ya and have the most incredible day sweetie!

  19. We have a couple of farmer’s markets here too. One on the Square, not far away, but it is closed now I believe. When I first saw the initials CSA I was surprised as I see them here a lot, but they are not for the same thing – here they mean Confederate States of America. The past is still in the present in Georgia.


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