Tuesday, December 30, 2008

King County Ag Commission Future of Agriculture Hearings

The King County Agriculture Commission invites your ideas about the future of agriculture.

The King County Agriculture Commission is sponsoring a series of 5 public meetings in early 2009 to gather information that will help shape the future of agriculture in King County.

Findings from these meetings and other research will be used in a report to the King County Council relating to the future of agriculture within the county’s agricultural production districts, plus recommendations for legislation regarding the allowed size of agricultural accessory buildings.

Meeting dates & times:

Woodinville - Thursday, January 8 - 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.,

Carnation - Thursday, January 22 – 7-9pm

Auburn - Thursday, February 12 - 7–9pm

Enumclaw - Thursday March 12 - 7 – 9pm

Vashon – date to be determined

For details, go to: www.kingcounty.gov/wlr.

Meeting participants will be asked to share their opinions on several important questions, including:

* What are you growing or raising and how is it changing?
* What kinds of resources or services do you need to be a successful farmer in the future?
* What are the trends you think are important to the future of farming in this region?
* How can King County nurture and promote the business of farming for the future?

Your ideas on the future of farming can also be shared with King County through a short online questionnaire, at http://www.kingcounty.gov/wlr.

For more information, contact Nancy Hutto, chair of the King County Agriculture Commission at 206-949-4550 or Steve Evans at steve.evans@kingcounty.gov .

Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter Wonderland

-There are a bunch of farmers markets still open. Check out Puget Sound Fresh for listings. Go get your local on.

-With the New Year comes a bunch of new events to attend! I know that I'm looking forward to the Chefs Collaborative Farmer-Chef Connection, which is always a fun networking event.

-We have the results from the Eat Local for Thanksgiving campaign survey. Some really interesting responses. Next year, we definitely need to connect with more local beverage makers (e.g. beer and wine). Lots of people included Washington wine.

-Snow makes people in Seattle crazy.

-Lotsa people will make food-related New Year's resolutions...usually around dieting. Anyone making a farming-related resolution? Or a "buy local" resolution? Drop a note in the comment section!


New President, new food policy?

Advocates of Change in Food Policy Look to Obama With Hope

A Food Agenda for Obama

On a lighter note...

Bio-Tech Companies Roll Out New Products for 2009

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Foodista.com Launched

Foodista.com, a foodie wikipedia, recently launched. Their slogan: The Online Cooking Encyclopedia Everyone Can Edit. Sounds great! The website was created by a handful of Amazon.com alums. I think they should add a section about local food...or maybe link back to Puget Sound Fresh. Since I just signed up, maybe I'll pop over there and add it as a category. Gotta love open source content creation.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jolly Green Business Park

Looks like Dayton, WA is working to build an "eco-business park" to attract small-scale food processors to their neck of the woods. Great! Ever since the Jolly Green Giant jobs left for..you guessed it! Peru!, they have been searching for new industry to take up the employment/growth/revenue slack. How interesting that they picked small-scale food processing! Someone over there must be watching the trends closely (see post below). Also, with the booming Walla Walla wine industry nearby, it's conceivable that this new eco-park would be able to attract artisinal processors to their sleepy burg. This South East WA project dovetails nicely with our Puget Sound Food Project. Like the town of Dayton, we are trying to revive the food processing industry here in our region. It will be interesting to watch these two efforts develop.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Second PCC/CHC Podcast: David Montgomery

Happy Monday! The combination of snow on the ground and the holiday spirit in the air seems to have slowed everything down just a touch, which is nice. We're wrapping up some of our 2008 projects and eagerly planning for 2009. Stay tuned for some fun and important announcements!

Our friends over at PCC Natural Markets recently posted the second part in the Cascade Harvest Coalition 2008 Podcast Series featuring renowned UW professor David Montgomery speaking at the Snohomish County Focus on Farming Conference. Professor Montgomery was recently chosen as a MacArthur Fellow (aka the "Genius Grant") for his work as a geomorphologist.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chef Survey: What's Hot in 2009

The National Restaurant Association just released the results from their Chef Survey. Over 1,600 chefs from across the nation took the survey. The number one trend? Locally grown produce. Boo-yah! It's a really fascinating study that reinforces our work here at Cascade Harvest Coalition, 'cause that's what we are: your local food and farming resource center.

Shout out to Jen Lamson and Kristin Hyde from Good Food Strategies for the tip.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Food Waste = Wasted Dollars

Here's a really interesting article about how the food industry, in particular institutional food service, is monitoring food waste and trying to find ways to cut it down. Perhaps the most interesting part of the article is the section that describes how students at Virginia Tech are responding to the school removing trays from the cafeteria. Getting people to change their behavior is often the most difficult part of "going green", so it's heartening to read that, in general, the students easily transitioned to the new system.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Buy local, it's a great investment

Dour economic news bombards us from all sides, which gets everyone all in a panic. Let's take a brief moment to step off of the index rollercoasters and try to take charge of what we know we can affect. A stable national economy starts with stable local economies. Take care of the home front first. How do you create a stronger local economy?


The last word may be the most important one, especially for those new to the movement toward local. Sometimes I hear from folks that it's unreasonable to buy everything locally. And you know what? That's absolutely true. Personally, I love bananas. And coffee. Neither of those items grows anywhere in the Puget Sound region (except maybe in a hothouse somewhere). They aren't local, but I'm still going to buy them. The key point is to buy local first. For instance, there are a lot of Washington farms growing a lot of potatoes. Instead of buying potatoes from somewhere else (Idaho, China, wherehaveyou) I choose Washington grown potatoes. Same thing goes for any other product. Buy local first. You don't have to completely overhaul your purchasing, just choose local products over non-local ones. Consider the money you spend locally as an investment in the future of your neighborhood, your city, your county, your state. By spending money within your community, you help build the strength of your local economy. And that's a great start to creating a sunny economic forecast.


San Francisco drafting food policy

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Puget Sound Fresh Bus Boards

Check out our lovely bus board advertising on Snohomish County transit. Big thanks to PCC Natural Markets for helping with production costs!

Doesn't the classic gray, overcast, NW weather just make those colors pop?!

I think they look great. What do you think?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Welcome back!

We hope you had a delicious (and local) Thanksgiving holiday.

A few articles of note:

Americans' Food Stamp Use Nears All-Time High

Gleaning Gone Crazy - 40,000 Show Up to Pick Leftover Crops at Colorado Farm

Recap of "Future of Farming" Conference

Upcoming Event:

Making Local Farm-to-School Connections

A workshop for extension agents and other ag professionals

December 11, 2008

D.F. Allmendinger Center (videoconferencing available at other locations)

WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center

Farm-to-school connections are sparking interest around the state, as producers, advocates, educators and food service professionals see the potential for farm-to-school programs to expand local markets for farms and provide access to more fresh foods for children and youth in schools. This past year the Legislature passed the Local Farms-Healthy Kids Act, creating a Farm-to-School Program in the Washington State Department of Agriculture to support farm-to-school links and providing money to 25 schools around the state to buy Washington-grown fruits and vegetables. Those and other schools are now actively seeking produce from Washington farms to serve in their snack programs.

Join us for a workshop on Thursday, December 11, 2008 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the D.F. Allmendinger Center at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center in Puyallup to learn how you can support successful farm-to-school connections in your community. Please let us know if you’d like to participate by video-conference at an Extension office in another part of the state—we can likely make that happen!

This workshop will provide the tools and resources for Extension educators and other agriculture professionals to facilitate successful buyer and seller relationships between farms and schools. We’ll provide information on food safety, certification and liability insurance issues for farms seeking to sell to schools. You’ll also gain resources and ideas to share with schools for teaching about the links between food, farming, health, culture and the environment.

Each participant will receive a Farm-to-School binder with reference materials, so that you can respond knowledgeably and easily to producers and school personnel seeking to implement or become involved in Farm-to-School programs.

The workshop is free, and lunch is provided (for those attending in person in Puyallup). Pre-registration is required. To register, please contact Maura Walsh at the WSDA Farm-to-School Program: mwalsh@agr or call 360-902-1935. For more information, or to request a videoconference in your area, please contact Tricia Sexton Kovacs at tkovacs@agr.wa.gov or 360-902-2029.

Brought to you by WSU King County Extension Farm-to-School Connections and WSDA Small Farm and Direct Marketing and Farm-to-School programs, with funding from a WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources SARE Professional Development Mini-Grant.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Dear friends – we did it!! We raised $10,000. I want to express our gratitude to all of you who joined Cascade Harvest Coalition and/or made a contribution toward this challenge. It truly is a community effort.

2009 is going to be a challenging year, but I truly feel that it presents us with great opportunities to re-envision what this local food economy can be – and how we can strengthen our network and continue to build on the great and meaningful work that is being done.

Please accept our warmest wishes, as you come together with family and friends, for a happy Thanksgiving.



By W. S. Merwin

I have to trust what was given to me
if I am to trust anything
it led the stars over the shadowless mountain
what does it not remember in its night and silence
what does it not hope knowing itself no child of time

what did it not begin what will it not end
I have to hold it up in my hands as my ribs hold up my heart
I have to let it open its wings and fly among the gifts of the unknown

again in the mountain I have to turn
to the morning

I must be led by what was given to me
as streams are led by it
and braiding flights of birds
the gropings of veins the learning of plants
the thankful days
breath by breath

I call to it Nameless One O Invisible
O Untouchable O Free
I am nameless I am divided
I am invisible and untouchable
and empty
nomad live with me
be my eyes
my tongue and my hands
my sleep and my rising
out of chaos
come and be given

Something to chew on the day before Thanksgiving...

This is a piece that was published on our Eat Local for Thanksgiving blog, but it's something to think about all year long.

Did you listen to Janet McDevitt on KUOW's Sound Focus last Wendesday? She talked all about Eating Local for Thanksgiving: what to cook, where to buy, etc. One issue, though, both she and the host Megan Sukys mentioned that local food is more expensive. From the show description: "[Farmers Markets] also host large crowds, they don’t always have everything you need and there is a big cost difference from the grocery store."


Studies over the last few years show that when you buy local food in season, it is often LESS EXPENSIVE than at chain grocery stores. For the Eat Local for Thanksgiving campaign, we asked a UW student, Lydia Caudill, to conduct an informal price comparison between farmers markets and grocery stores

“The prices of produce in the farmers market not only were very comparable to conventional non-local produce, but they often were a better price.” She also made a case for the experience, poignantly adding, “The atmosphere of the farmers market was a mix of a festival and an exploration of the unknown as people asked questions about the vast array of unique produce sold, very often talking with the people who grew it themselves. If I ever doubted my reasons for buying local…this project took away my doubts. "

We found organic acorn and butternut squash to be more affordable by 79-cents a pound at the market than at the grocery store. And organic Gala apples bought directly from the farmer were more affordable by $1.29 a pound from their supermarket counterparts!

Another informal study conducted earlier in the year by the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance found these numbers:

10/14/08 Organic at Safeway on Rainier Ave 10/15/08 at Columbia City Farmers Market

Butternut squash $1.79/lb. Butternut squash $1.00/lb.

Acorn squash 1.79/lb Acorn squash $1.00/lb.

Chard(medium bunch) 2.99/lb. Chard (med. bunch)2.50

Gala apples 2.79/lb. Gala apples 1.99/lb.

Romaine lettuce (med.) 2.19/head Romaine lettuce (med.) 1.50/head

Green beans 2.79/lb. Green beans 3.00/lb

Golden apples 2.79/lb Golden apples 1.99/lb

Safeway (Rainier Ave.) Organic Prices (10/7/08) Columbia City Farm. Market (10/8/08)

Gala apples $2.79/lb. Gala apples $1.50/lb.

Golden Apples $2.59/lb. Golden apples $2.00/lb.

Medium Tomatoes $4.19/lb. Medium Tomatoes $3.50/lb.

Red leaf lettuce $2.19/head Red Leaf Lettuce $2.00/head

large onion $1.89/lb. large onion $1.50/lb.

1 medium green pepper $1.79 each 1 medium green pepper $1.30 each

Blueberries 1/2 pint $4.99 Blueberries 1/2 pint $4.00

So, folks, don't believe the hype! Buying directly from the farmers is often LESS EXPENSIVE than buying from a chain grocery store. Plus, the money that you spend locally gets spent locally, meaning that the dollar that you use to buy potatoes gets recirculated throughout the local community. Whereas, if you spent that dollar at a chain grocery store, more than 2/3 of that dollar would immediately leave the state to pay for large compa
ny overhead costs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We've almost reached our challenge grant goal!

Dear Friends,

Thanks to your generous support we’ve almost reached our challenge grant goal to $10,000 by Thanksgiving. As of this morning, and with just two days remaining, we’ve received $9,660 in memberships and contributions from great folks throughout our community.

Not only will this help ‘keep the lights on,’ but it will enable us to continue supporting farmers, providing critical information to consumers on the importance of farming in our region, and helping develop family farm friendly policies.

In this season of being thankful, we at Cascade Harvest Coalition are fortunate to be part of a strong, caring community that is committed to a vibrant, local food economy.

In community,


It's been a little while since I last posted here...

I've been blogging at our other, more seasonal, Eat Local for Thanksgiving blog....Over there, we're posting recipes from top-notch local chefs, photos from recent ELT events, and "talking turkey".check it out:



Monday, November 10, 2008

Final Public Hearing for 2009 KC Budget

Hi all,

Mary and I just returned from the final public hearing for the 2009 King County budget at the Metropolitan King County Council chambers. Mary spoke on behalf of the Puget Sound Fresh program, the County Ag. Program staff, and the future of farmers and farmland in King County. Since many programs are on the "chopping block" to be cut from the County budget, there was a huge turnout of people to speak their minds to the council members. At the bang of the opening gavel, 63 people had signed up to speak. By my count, tenof the speakers spoke about county ag. programs, which is a fantastic percentage. In the ten, there was wonderful representation from various sectors connected to local farms and the ag. programs:

1. Seth Caswell, chef and president of Seattle Chefs' Collaborative
2. Andrew Stout, farmer and owner of Full Circle Farm (and president of Sno-Valley Tilth)
3. Wade Bennet, farmer and owner of Rockridge Orchards
3. Chris Curtis, executive director of Neighborhood Farmers Market Association, which operates seven farmers markets in Seattle
4. Larry Pickering, King County Ag. Commissioner
5. Kathy Pryor, Washington Toxics Coalition
6. Brad Gaolach, Director of WSU - King County Extension
7. Nancy Hutto, Snoqualmie Valley Honey Farm andKing County Ag. Commissioner
8. Michele Blakely, Growing Things Farm and King County Ag. Commissioner
9. Dave Hedlin, Hedlin Farm

And, of course, 10. Mary Embleton, executive director of Cascade Harvest Coalition.

In addition to the ten speakers, there were many ag program supporters throughout the 150 people in the council chambers including:

Sarah Garitone from Pierce Conservation District, Debbie Arenth from Fall City Farms, Lori Taylor from Bellevue Farmers Market, and me.

The speakers hit on a number of quality points for continuing funding for ag programs and staff. Here are some of the best from my notes:

1. Agriculture is a long term investment. It takes time to build successful ag. operations. To reduce or eliminate County agricultural program funding would halt all momentum for current farmers and severly reduce the chances for success for future farmers.

2. King County has been a national leader for crafting public policy and programs that help agriculture and should continue to lead the way toward promoting and protecting local agriculture.

3. Public demand for local food is high and rapidly increasing. Existing markets are growing and new markets are trying to open. Farmers Markets and other market opportunties need support and assistance to best serve farmers, consumers and communities.

4. The County should treat farming as a valuable resource that needs preservation, conservation and help with development for future opportunities. For the future of agriculture, especially "fringe ag" near urban areas, it is important that the county continue to "go to bat" for farmers.

5. Importance of local agriculture in the health of the local economy.

6. Food and water will be the major crises of the 21st century...even more so than energy.

7. Farms have a hugely positive ecological impact on King County. Example: 16 certified Salmon Safe farms, with 5 more on the certification waiting list.

It was a good show of support for King County ag programs and staff. I hope the council members heard the words and acknowleged the people who turned out to voice their support for continued County participation in building a healthier and more sustainable food system.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shout-outs and upcoming events

First, a HUGE thank you to Tim Crosby for blogging from the Slow Food conference in Italy. The CHC blog is now officially international! Beyond being a "blogger-from-afar", Tim is one of our biggest supporters and known throughout Washington as the local food policy wonk. Tim rox.

Get out your calendars and circle these dates!

Friday, November 7th
Eat Local for Thanksgiving Kick-off event at Pike Place Market
Come hang out with local farmers, local chefs and local elected officials as we celebrate the official kick-off of the Eat Local for Thanksgiving campaign...while you're thinking about it, go take the ELT pledge.

November 7th-9th
Tilth Producers Conference in Bellingham
Lots and LOTS of workshops, speakers, films, food, music and fun. Go.

Sunday, November 9th
ELT Cooking Demo at the Broadway Farmers Market
Check out a wonderful FM that stays open late into the Fall.

Monday, November 10th
King County Council Final Public Hearing on 2009 King County Budget at the County Council Chambers
The county is in a budget crisis, but we must preserve agricultural programs and staff. King County has been a national leader in their work with local farms and farmland and we must not lose our momentum. Come to the hearing and make your voice heard.

Saturday, November 15th
ELT Kick-off part 2 at the University District Farmers Market
Our second kick-off event, complete with more local farmers, more local chefs and yes, more elected officials! It should be a real wing-ding!

Sunday, November 16th
ELT Cooking Demo at Ballard Market
Enjoy a tasty lesson in culinary arts while browsing and buying at one of our year-round farmers markets.

Sunday, November 23rd
ELT Cooking Demo at Ballard Market
If you missed the first demo or are hungry for more, join us for a right-before-Thanksgiving event at the year-round Ballard Farmers Market.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

PCC Podcast: Evening with Michael Ableman

We sponsored an evening with Michael Ableman, titled

Feeding the Future: Stories, Images and Ideas from the Frontier of Food and Agriculture

Check out the podcast!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Terra Madre 2008 Day 3

Today was the first full day of conference sessions, and my last day at Terra Madre. I am now totally immersed in this world of food, just in time to leave. :(

The impromptu and formal markets are amazing. The first photo shows the informal market in foreground, with the yellow/red booths of formal market in rear. The second photos shows a formal booth of Gorganu citrus products from the Foggio region of Italy. The third photo shows some traditional, yummy peppers from the Turin/Peidmont region.

I have met producers from Brazil, Bangladesh, Basque region of Spain, Portugal, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Kenya, Poland, South Africa, Italy, and on and on. The food booths are like windows in to our past, with traditional food being offered with the stories of their production and history. I tried some traditional Uzbekistan bread. While it may have not been the best tasting bread, the fact that it was made with the same ingredients in the same recipe that has been used for centuries connected my palate directly with history. That bread is more memorable than any modern loaf that includes modern ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.

The first conference session I attended was entitled "Producing Quality with Dignity"; a comparison of participative approaches to improving small scale agriculture. A gentleman from Brazil enlightened me about Participative Certification: the notion that you get producers and consumers to commit to a set of certifiable criteria that enrich the local food system. A very intriguing extension of Carlo Petrini's notion that consumers are co-producers. A woman from Israel discussed an innovative direct marketing method between Israelis and Palestinians that was basically a CSA project across this divided land. A woman from the Italian trade bureau ICEE spoke about supporting trade networks around the world, supply chain certification (like Food Alliance certifying distributors), and a clarifying notion about how to move forward in the face of uncertainty; that the confusion of which road to take can be clarified through collaborative partnerships, strategic alliances, and/or strategic networks. In other words, when facing uncertainty of what to do next, work with others and move forward together from a stronger, collaborative position. This can reduce risk since one group is not moving forward alone. Reminds me of the Good Food Coalition we have emerging in WA state.

The second session I attended was to discuss the "Manifesto on Climate Change and the Future of Food Security". This Manifesto presents a series of actions we can take to ensure that food security is considered during the drafting of climate change intitiatives. Vandana Shiva co-authored the manifesto and emphasized that the time is right to change the paradigm that underlies our economic considerations, and urged everyone to sign on to support the manifesto at The International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture. The hope is to present support for the manifesto at the next meeting of the G8, and to place food security on the table for the 2010 meetings in Copenhagen that will lay out the framework for the followup to the Kyoto protocol. Please read the manifesto and consider pledging your and/or your organization's support.

I started in to a third presentation but quickly realized that the best thing I could learn was in the markets outside the conference spaces. Wandering the world in one place has become a mesmerizing experience.

Alas, it is time for ma familia to move on. Cascade Harvest, grazie for the opportunity to share some of my ramblings. Hopefully you have gotten a sense of Terra Madre, and how our little corner of the world is connected to a global effort to secure farms and traditional foods for all.



Terra Madre 2008 Day 2

So I was wrong about the number of delegates at Terra Madre. There are around 7,000 producers, chefs, and educators present. And the US has quite a presence, with around 800 delegates, the largest group outside the host country, Italy. Washington state has 19 delegates here!

I got my facts checked by none other than Linda Neunzig, of Snohomish county's Ninety Farms, shown in the attached photo with Mina Williams and Anza Meunchow, aslo from WA state. What a trip, to travel halfway around the world and find your neighbors.

The day began with ma familia and I diving, more like squeezing, our way through the parallel event, Salone Del Gusto. The Salone is the largest food trade show I have ever seen, both by number of booths and number of spectators. Provinces from around Italy proudly displayed their regions' bounty. You could spend all day sampling Italian wine, cheese, meat, and oils.

But our goal was the 'addendum' show in the back, the Slow Food pavilion. This attached trade show was smaller and therefore more manageable to ingest and explore. It was also what we traveled halfway around the world to see, with booths from different countries showing their heritage foods. On one side of the hall were the formal booths (photo of Madagascar booth with Puget Sound Fresh bag!) that the public could explore. On the other side of the hall was the delegate space which has become an informal marketplace of world food and crafts. I have included a photo of one of those booths, from Thailand. Notice the "No GMO" sign on the wall.

The day's conference sessions were comprised of meetings of each country's delegation. The US delegates (large group photo) heard impassioned speakers discuss the reasons why we do these things we do: support heritage foods and their producers. Of note, the new president of Slow Food USA, Josh Viertel, emphasized the need for Slow Food to more actively support social justice issues and organizations. Carlo Petrini stopped by and welcomed our county to his home. He warmed this heart by saying "Because of you (US delegates) my love for your country only grows". This was great to hear after the boo I heard yesterday.

Onward! Today are separate meetings and more wading through the world's food market. Ciao!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Terra Madre 2008 Day 1

Buongiorno from Terra Madre 2008.

Tim Crosby here, Farm and Food Systems Director for Growing Washington, and one of the U.S. delegates in attendance. Mary asked me to send some notes from Turin, a task I am only happy to complete. I won't be here for the whole conference but will share what I can until I leave.

Terra Madre, the world Slow Food conference, opened today at the 2006 winter Olympic hockey rink. I would guess around 3,500 delegates were in attendance to hear the opening session speakers.

The 3 hour convening assembly was awash in colors and nationalities. A parade of flags opened the session, with over 140 flags representing the participating nations. I had my own little international corner in the back of the stadium with a Brazilian farmer to my left and a South African farmer on my right. Molto bueno (very good)!

There are quite a few Americans present, which I hope will lead to continuing dialog about what works best in the U.S. Unfortunately, but not surprising: when the U.S. flag was announced there was a lot of cheering and at least one boo. I was expecting a negative tone especially during this current financial storm.

Arriving just before the beginning of the ceremony gave me few options for seats, so as you can see from the picture, I was situated in the back of the room. And, having arrived just before start I did not get a translation headset so only understood half of the speakers. Luckily those who spoke in English included Vindana Shiva, Alice Waters, UN Assistant Secretary General Carlos Lopes, Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement, and Sam Levin, a high school student from Massachusetts who spoke eloquently about starting a school garden.

The common theme of their talks stressed 3 crisis we are currently facing - financial, food security, and climate/environment - that together emphasized the importance of moving forward a more sustainable and equitable food system. Vindana Shiva (photo, right) received a long standing ovation for her passionate voice for sustainable, fair food, as well as her tirade against WTO, Monsanto, and Wall St. She was able to successfully connect these groups due to the gravity of the issues we currently face. The term that will stick with me from her speech was how we are currently being managed by "the rules of fiction": paperless, collateraless monetary transactions like derivatives and mortgage-backed securities.

Tomorrow (which is today here) I head to Salone Del Gusto, a marketplace of world food producers, and also to a meeting of all US delegates.



Thursday, October 23, 2008

WANTED: New Farmers

On Monday evening, Mary and I attended the Local Harvest Gala at the Palace Ballroom to celebrate the Local Food Action Initiative and to help raise funds for BALLE Seattle.

The food, catered by Tom Douglas Restaurants, was top-freakin'-notch. Absolutely delicious. Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin made an excellent point: one of the benefits of working on local food issues is the refreshments are always delicious. Hear, hear!

The words, spoken by various leaders throughout the sustainable ag. community, were inspiring. My favorite tid-bit from the speeches came from Siri Erickson-Brown of Local Roots Farm. She spoke about the challenges and successes she has experienced first-hand when starting out farming. But perhaps her most important idea was that we are in dire need of new farmers. She astutely pointed out that nearly every community wants its own farmers market. We can attest to that: every week we field calls from folks who want to start their own FM. But for a farmers market to be successful, it first must have FARMERS!

Fact: There aren't enough farmers to fill all of the potential farmers markets...actually, there aren't enough farmers, period!

As the local food movement continues to gain public awareness and demand increases, we must examine the supply side of the equation as well. If we want to create a sustainable food system, it is imperative that we GROW NEW FARMERS.

It will not be easy, it will not happen quickly, but we must begin to build a sustainable framework on which to build new farms and grow new farmers.


Learn more about the County of Origin Labeling, which finally went into effect on Sept. 30th. This site even has "webinars".

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Michael Ableman and Eat Local for Thanksgiving

Hey Friends,

It’s hard to believe, but Thanksgiving and the bustle of the holidays are just a little more than six weeks away! With summer behind us and winter looming ahead, local farms are growing and harvesting the delicious foods of autumn. Imagine warm butternut squash soup, roasted buttery potatoes, fresh-baked apple pie, toasted pumpkin seeds. Yum! Some farmers markets are open all winter, so check out www.pugetsoundfresh.org to find the one nearest you, or visit your local farm-friendly grocer for some Northwest bounty.

Coming up soon

This Friday, renowned farmer, author and photographer Michael Ableman will talk about food, culture and sustainability. He’s traveled the world and will share engaging, real-world stories of farmers and organizations that are providing leadership and re-thinking how we feed ourselves and our communities. What better way to get into the Thanksgiving spirit than to discuss how food and culture intertwine both here and abroad?

Date: Friday, October 24
Time: 6 – 8 p.m.
Place: Everett Station, Weyerhaeuser Room,
3201 Smith Avenue, Everett, WA 98201
Cost: $10 Cascade Harvest Coalition members; $15 non-members; RSVPs requested but not required by Monday, October 20 to Mary at Cascade Harvest: mary@cascadeharvest.org or by phone at (206)632-0606

Take the Pledge!

This Thanksgiving,
take the pledge and offer at least one menu item prepared with a locally grown or produced food. It’s a simple, affordable and delicious way to show your support for local farms and help sustain our local food economy.

Here's why it’s important. When you choose to Eat Local for Thanksgiving, you:
• Support our local farms, which increases local jobs and strengthens the rural areas of Washington
• Reduce our dependence on food grown far away
• Keep our locally earned dollars circulating in our local economy
• Strengthen our local food system so we have healthy, safe and delicious food that supports our families and our environment.

Visit: www.pugetsoundfresh.org/eatlocal, and
please forward to family, friends and colleagues, and invite them to join you in your pledge to Eat Local for Thanksgiving!

If you are interested in receiving Eat Local for Thanksgiving promotional materials, please contact Mark McIntyre at mark@cascadeharvest.org.


Eat Local for Thanksgiving Steering Committee

Friday, October 17, 2008

Immigrant labor and the price of food


-Though provoking article from the Seattle Times, titled "Crackdown on illegal immigration boosts food prices," which quickly sketches the complex issue of immigrant labor, farming, and food prices. For more information on farmworkers and farmworker issues, please visit

-A nifty little article about eating to enjoy, rather than to diet and the positive health benefits of such a lifestyle.

-Warren Buffet advises Americans to buy American...just like we advise locals to buy local. Which leads me to an interesting thought: food compared to sports. Many Americans are fanatic about their local sports teams, for no better reason than they're the local sports teams. Why not food? Doesn't it make sense to cheer for our local farmers, rather than some schmo down in California? I know that I wouldn't be caught dead cheering for the San Francisco 49'ers when they're playing the Seattle Seahawks this coming Sunday. Root for the home farmers.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another interesting online debate

How much are you willing to pay for fresh, local produce?

What are the major challenges facing agriculture in Washington state?

KUOW recently produced a series called "Sweet Earth: Lessons From the Land" that aimed to open up discussion about the pros and cons with local food.

From the website:
"Soaring gasoline prices, climate change, health consciousness. They're all factors in the growing movement to eat locally. It's a great slogan, but is it possible to eat locally in the Central Puget Sound region? What kinds of challenges face our local farmers? What can state and local government do to help? From King County's efforts to protect farmlands from encroaching development, to programs that try to find aspiring farmers to make that land productive, we'll hear about public and private initiatives to boost farming. We'll also learn how direct marketing can take farmers beyond the traditional farmers markets. And we'll explore the bond between farmers and the land they steward."

In one edition, two of our friends, Andrew Stout and Anne Schwartz, answer questions about current problems facing farmers in Washington. View their discussion!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thanksgiving Tasting at Whole Foods to Benefit CHC

Come visit us at the Roosevelt Square Whole Foods on November 6th! There will be food, beer and wine tastings galore. The cover charge is $10 and all proceeds go to help Cascade Harvest Coalition. Boo-yah! More information right here.


A couple quick reminders...

1.) We're smack in the middle of October, which means it's time to take the Eat Local for Thanksgiving pledge. Your friends and family members will thank you for including delicious, fresh food on the holiday table. Your local farmers will thank you for helping support them and their hard work. Your pocketbook will thank you for buying affordable local food that will help sustain our local food economy. And finally, we will thank you by entering your name to win a locally raised heritage turkey or free Organic Valley dairy products for a year. Eat Local for Thanksgiving: it's simple, affordable and delicious.

Take the pledge!

2.) Sign up to hear Michael Ableman speak about the future of food on October 24th from 6-8pm at the Everett Station. It should be a fun and educational talk, with plenty of opportunities to hob-knob with local food celebrities. To RSVP, email Mary Embleton: mary@cascadeharvest.org.

More to come later.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Local Farms Healthy Kids article

Here's a great update in the Kitsap Sun about the Local Farms Health Kids bill in action at elementary schools on the peninsula. LFHK is a landmark piece of legislation that really positions Washington state as a government leader in the effort to relocalize our food system.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Friday

Well, it looks like the weather will be nice over the weekend, which bodes well for the penultimate Helping Hands Workparty at Full Circle Farm.

If you only read one article this weekend, read this one:

Uniting Around Food to Save an Ailing Town

I love the idea of a "Community Supported Restaurant." That's great.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wait...you don't like the taste of local food?!

Almost all press surrounding the local food movement is positive. In general, most people are very supportive of local food, even if they don't frequent farmers markets or subscribe to a CSA. From an ideals perspective, it's hard to argue with supporting local farms and farmers. From a pocketbook perspective, sometimes it's hard to see the long-term impacts of a pricey bunch of carrots (even though local studies have shown the prices to be comparable). I understand that angle. But never before have I heard taste as a reason not to like local food. Looks like some University of Portland students are unadventurous eaters. Wow. My favorite quote from the article:

"We are not HIPPIES. We don't care where our food comes from. It just has to taste good. This does not taste good."

Instead, the student wanted his/her regular Tuesday chicken wrap. Ahh, to be a student again.

Talk to any chef worth their salt and they'll tell you that local is where it's at for flavor and freshness...and not from a idealist perspective. Sure, some of them love their farmers, but you'll find chefs out there who don't really care about the movement, so long as they can get their hands on top quality product.

So hurrah for UP students who don't like local food (or hippies), may they enjoy their institutional chicken wraps on Tuesdays and their obesity and urban sprawl on Fridays.


In other news:

Snohomish County pays to preserve farmland

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cascade Harvest Coalition in Crisis

Dear friends,

The meltdown in financial markets and the increasingly weak economy have hit us hard here at Cascade Harvest Coalition. As of today, we will lose 75% of our operating budget (approximately $230,000) for 2009. This is largely local government grants that won’t be funded because of operating shortfalls.

We need your help!

For ten years, Cascade Harvest Coalition has been fiercely dedicated to building a sustainable food system in our region. Each year, we have reached millions of consumers with messages on the critical importance of local farms and food to our economy, our communities and our environment. We have given them the tools they need to directly connect with local farmers – through the Puget Sound Fresh Farm Guide, CSA directory, searchable database, and by directly supporting Farmers Markets and restaurants, local retail grocers and others who source locally.

We have made it our mission to more directly connect farmers with local food buyers, helping support sustainable farming operations and increasing their bottom line.

We have provided thousands of hours of one-on-one assistance to current and beginning farmers as they try to access land, start new farm businesses, and develop new markets. We have helped maintain over 500 acres in active agricultural production and provided many hundreds of farmers with the resources, tools and information they need to be successful.

And our efforts to support new processing infrastructure in the Puget Sound region are starting to bear fruit. Working with our collaborative partners, we’ve identified existing processing capacity and are helping farmers get new products to market as well as examining the potential for other processing facilities. We are adding considerably to the fundamental base of information about production, processing and infrastructure in our region that will serve us for years to come.

Importantly, we have also provided significant financial support to other organizations promoting sustainable food and farming systems by helping fund workshops, conferences and other community events as well as acting as fiscal sponsor for organizations just starting to build capacity.

And, we provide a crucial conduit for information – through this and our other email lists – to make sure that those interested in issues affecting local food and farms are informed. This list – started nearly 10 years ago – has grown from reaching a handful of individuals and organizations – to reaching an estimated 2,000 directly and through information sharing. Almost daily – organizations ask to post information to this list because they know you care about the issues. And yet, the majority of people on this list are not members of Cascade Harvest Coalition.

We urge you to become a member or make a contribution, individually and through your business or organization to support our efforts at this critical time. Your support is crucial in helping us maintain the momentum we’ve built and the successes we’ve achieved.

Thank you for your support!

Mary Embleton, Director

Monday, October 6, 2008

Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) update

Last week, COOL finally went into effect.

On the Seattle PI blog "Secret Ingredients", Andrew Schnieder writes: "After six years, Congress finally got its way this week when rules requiring meat and fresh produce to be labeled by national origin finally went into effect....But don't begin shopping with a blindfold on. The mantra "Buyer beware" is still very much in play in the grocery aisles because the list of exemptions to the labeling laws that industry demanded and received is lengthy and complex."

In other words, not much has changed. While COOL is now in effect, there are so many loopholes that it's not hard for those in the food industry to slightly alter their product and thus skirt any COOL regulations. Boo! Hiss! Consumers want accountability, not more worthless regulations that don't improve public health or safety.

What do you think about COOL?


Friday, October 3, 2008

Eat Local Month in Puget Sound?

Ouch. My face hurts from the large, heavy gauntlet smacking we just took from the Seattle Weekly. Jonathan Kaufmann just challenged us and many of our partner organizations to step up and create an "Eat Local Month" here in the Puget Sound.

I think it's a great idea and I agree with Mr. Kaufmann that it's long overdue.

For this year, I suggest you take the Eat Local for Thanksgiving pledge...it's a start!

Read the full article:
Why Doesn't the Puget Sound Have a Local Food Month?


Urban farmer wins $500,000 MacArthur "genius grant"

An inspiring article about a man with a vision:

Mr. Allen said he learned it all from his parents. “We’re having to go back to when people shared things and started taking care of each other,” he said. “That’s the only way we will survive.”

“What better way,” he mused, “than to do it with food?”

Full article:

An Urban Farmer Is Rewarded for His Dream

Turkeys at Persephone Farm

Here he is, folks: Tom Turkey! This lovely bird was kind enough to stand still for a moment while we took his picture out at Persephone Farm in Indianola, WA.

It's time to start thinking about Thanksgiving. Yes, it is somewhat early, but it's also primetime harvest on local farms and a great opportunity to plan ahead for a wonderful holiday meal. This year, take the Eat Local for Thanksgiving pledge to offer at least one locally grown or raised food item on your holiday table. It's simple, affordable and delicious! Plus, when you take the pledge, you'll be entered to win a locally raised heritage turkey (kinda like the one pictured!) or free Organic Valley milk for a year. Some great prizes for participating in a great campaign.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Michael Ableman to talk about local food systems this October

For Immediate Release Contact: Mary Embleton, Cascade Harvest Coalition,

206-632-0606 or mary@cascadeharvest.org

Feeding the Future: Stories, Images and Ideas from the Frontier of Food and Agriculture, an Evening with Michael Ableman

Everett, WA: Where our food comes from and how it is grown are getting more attention than ever, particularly in light of large national and international food recalls, recent studies detailing the tremendous energy consumed by our current industrialized food system, and the impacts that food system has on the health of communities and the environment worldwide. We are facing what proponents of sustainable food systems for years have called a looming ‘food crisis.’ It is time to take an insightful look at what is happening on the frontier of sustainable and localized food systems and the promising models that can lead us forward.

Join renowned farmer, author and photographer Michael Ableman on October 24th at 6 pm at Everett Station for a closer look at food, culture and sustainability gleaned from his travels across urban and rural landscapes in the US and abroad. Hear about the farmers and organizations that are providing real leadership and action on re-thinking how we feed ourselves and our communities.

Regional efforts at re-localizing our food system will get a boost from this dynamic discussion as we launch the second annual Eat Local for Thanksgiving campaign and gear up for Snohomish County’s 5th Annual Future of Farming Conference: Breaking New Ground (www.focusonfarming.org).

This event is sponsored by Cascade Harvest Coalition with support from Snohomish County, the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, WSU Snohomish County Extension and Cascade Land Conservancy. Cost is $15 for non-members and $10 for members of Cascade Harvest Coalition. Seating is limited so reserve your seat today for this exciting event.

When: October 24, 2008

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Where: Everett Station, Weyerhaeuser Room, 3201 Smith Avenue, Everett, 98201

Light refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP to Mary at 206-632-0606 or mary@cascadeharvest.org by October 20th

Monday, August 18, 2008

The most important campaign this fall...

Is Eat Local for Thanksgiving 2008!

Last year was a huge success and we are anticipating an even greater campaign this year. Stay tuned for more info about the campaign and to learn about how you can get involved.

Friday, August 15, 2008

New Website!

Hey! Cascade Harvest Coalition's new website is finally live! Thank you Ryan Fansler from Creative Media Alliance

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NY Greenmarket Manager answers questions

New York Times article/bulletin about farmers markets, etc.

And here's a great article smashing the arguments of some NY Times revered columnists who have lately been trashing the green movement. Fun to read and full of great info and links.

NY Times Grumps Dump on Locavores

But enough about far-away New York! What's going on around here? Well, for starters, our website is finally live! After much work and many hours of incorrectly writing codes and links and what-have-you, we have put together a mostly finished product. One of the benefits of using a Drupal framework is that it allows us to make content changes whenever we like, which means that we'll update and change info frequently. Check it out here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Farmers Market week is coming...

get ready for some local food fun in a neighborhood near you!

Farmers Market week is a great chance to celebrate local agriculture and our local communities. Mark your calendar for August 3rd-9th and plan on heading out to your local farmers market...or take a short trip and visit a neighboring community's local farmers market. They're all Puget Sound Fresh!

Governor Gregoire's proclamation for Farmers Market Week.

WSDA News Release

Article roll-call:

Farmer charges for plastic bags, some customers outraged, others applaud

Lean times cause shoppers to shift toward frugal spending...but will the habits stick?

California is first state to ban trans-fats

I know that guy!

OR Advocate of Eating Local Food Conducts Experiment

I went to school with Justin Roethbeck! I saw this article on the front page of the Statesman Journal when I pulled over for gas on my way driving home from Palo Alto, CA . What a pleasant surprise to see a fellow Whitman alumnus supporting local agriculture. I hope to get back in contact with Justin and follow his local eating adventure. You can check out his progress here.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Produce Popping

Well, here we are, in the middle of July, and the produce is popping. I, for one, am really enjoying this year's bounty. Last year, I worked at Full Circle Farm and got first-hand farming experience. This year, I am much more of a regular, everyday consumer. Granted, I still work in the "industry", but since I am not physically on a farm, my lens is tinted a different color. We are lucky enough to have a mid-week farmers market within walking distance of our office: the Wallingford Wednesday Market is just a hop, skip and jump away and consistently bustling with people, music and food. A great "hump-day" excursion. Our local market is also where we gather data and info for our bi-monthly Puget Sound Fresh newsletter.


Article roll-call:

Produce Tracking Website

Fashionable Local Food Trend: Hire Someone to Plant your Garden

A Growing Appetite for Kitsap Food

Whole Foods Recipe Showdown!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The evil empire comes home to roost

What do we think about Wal-Mart's new campaign to buy local? Personally, I find it to be an interesting occurrence. While the myriad positive benefits of buying locally produced farm products has been getting lots of press over the last few years, it really took a market shift in the transportation industry to affect larger change. No, all problems with the food system are not solved by Wal-Mart deciding to buy more locally and to heavily publicize the practice, but it is an interesting case-study for those of us interested in relocalizing the food system. This new development spurs many questions in my head: what is their definition of local? What kind of buying practices and ethics are they using when dealing with local farmers? Who is benefiting from the partnership? Etc. etc. etc. It also forces people involved in the industry to reevaluate what factors drive change and whether or not the system can work from the bottom up instead of the top down.

In the past, there have been barriers between locally grown and Wal-Mart. Traditionally, Wal-Mart has been associated with blue-collar "peanut-butter and jelly" people, while locally grown is often associated with either white-collar "foie gras" types or no-collar "wheat-grass and granola" folks. Breaking down these divisions is part of what we do at Cascade Harvest Coalition, but it's been a tough road to convince people to spend more money based on health and ideology. Now, with Wal-Mart "joining" the cause, the argument shifts toward better economic value, i.e. it's cheaper for the consumers. See, we've been pushing the other side of that argument for years, i.e. it's more profitable for the farmers, but, in general, people are much less likely to give more but they love to spend less, even if the end result is the same. If that makes sense. So, for us it's been an uphill slog to try and educate consumers about the benefits of buying locally, when really the driver for change is lower price. Or at least perceived lower price.

So, this discussion begs the question: if you do something right for the wrong reasons...should it still be considered right? Wal-Mart has started sourcing more locally grown produce, but not to benefit the farmer, or to build healthier communities, or for many of the other benefits. It has started sourcing more locally grown produce because it might/will save money on transportation costs and because it can spin out a shiny, new marketing campaign. Surprisingly, those two reasons are not on the 10 Reasons to Buy Your Food from Regional Family Farms.

In fact, with Wal-Mart entering the game, many of those reasons may be corrupted or at least bent in the wrong direction. For instance, one of the most overlooked, yet important reasons for buying from local family farms is that locally grown food protects genetic diversity. Wal-Mart requires buys huge amounts of one, single product to help keep its prices down. Well, that does not promote genetic diversity.

Or the reason that locally grown food is fresher and tastes better. Wal-Mart may buy more locally grown produce, but that doesn't mean that it's putting it out on the shelves any faster than it was previously. Most of the local product will probably be shipped to a distribution center where it will wallow and wilt until called upon by some Supercenter.

On the flip side, though, any good change, no matter the package, is good change, right? Wal-Mart is a huge company with lots of stores, money and employees. If it decides to reduce transportation and buy locally...they're reducing transportation and buying locally! Maybe this is the shift that we've been looking for: to bridge that gap between traditional Wal-Mart customers and traditional Locally Grown customers.

For now, it's a "wait-and-see" period. There are too many factors to predict just how this announcement will affect the system. And, like most everything, it will not be a simple "good/bad" evaluation...there will be quite a bit of gray area. The key thing will be to stay on top of the news and to ferret out more information about the proposal, so as not to let Wal-Mart simply push one past us. But we also must not maintain an elitist front. Somewhere in the middle shall we stand, with the wishes of farmers and consumers driving us onward.


PS Congratulations to The Evergreen State College Organic Farm on becoming certified Salmon Safe!

Article roll-call:

Consumers can drive sustainable change

Can Changes in Physical Environment Cause Changes in Attitudes and Perceptions?

Walmart goes local?

Index of Locally Sourced Wal-mart

Fields of Fuel

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Paper or plastic or something else?

The debate rages on...

but does it really matter? At the end of the day, will a surcharge cause people to change their ways and bring their own reusable bags? Even if they do, what is the overall impact of fewer bags in the Seattle waste-stream? The fee does seem like a good idea and certainly one that a professed "environmentalist" should get behind, but in the midst of the back-and-forth I find myself disenchanted, disheartened and disappointed.

These questions don't get at the real problem that I have with this debate, which is, why must Seattle citizens debate everything? We complain about little progressive change, yet the persistent roadblock are our complaints! We claim to have a legacy of progressiveness, yet we have very little to show for it (especially over the last decade). We react instead of act. We are locked into an inertial crawl, where any true action will knock us from our proclaimed progressive path. Public transportation, the Alaskan Way viaduct, the Supersonics...every issue must be debated and discussed and every single view represented until the deadline has passed! nothing happened! except debate!

Yes, I do understand that our country was founded on the principle of true democracy, where every opinion counts and must be counted, but often, while leaders may have paid lipservice to those ideals, in the end it took visionary leadership to get anything worthwhile done. No, I am not advocating for a rise in back-room or pay-to-play politics, rather I am seeking greater leadership from our elected officials. They are representatives for a reason. They are elected based on their proposed plans of action (I hope). If they cannot muster up the gumption to make a decision for their constituents, for fear of losing the next election, then they are poor representative officials and should be run out of office anyway. The object of the position is not to sit and wait until it's time to throw mud at potential usurpers, but to act and try and experiment and innovate.

Also, I realize that this post itself is a complaint that serves little to no effect in the real world. But that's part of the fun of blogging! Perhaps I have listened to Ross Reynolds on KUOW's The Conversation too frequently (notice how he never pronounces "h", e.g. -uman, -uge, etc.), where callers have their own agendas and lots of anecdotal evidence to share. Perhaps I am being too critical of our elected officials and not giving them enough credit for their work. Perhaps. But I feel mired in the middle, like every decision is an indecision, like every vote ends in inactive compromise.

Okay, this post didn't directly address any of our organization's focus issues, but it was a good chance for me to vent some of my frustration with our local political climate.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Good Food trailer

Article roll-call:

Grant spurs Monroe farmers work on crops for biodiesel

Hole in the Middle
We are actively addressing this issue with the Puget Sound Food Project.

Water is the new Oil


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Article dump

Just a few interesting articles today. Check out www.pugetsoundfresh.org and click on the "What's Fresh Now" button to view the Early July edition of the newsletter.

Washington Organic Acreage Increases

Wal-Mart Starts Buying Locally

Innovation and Food Stamps


Monday, June 16, 2008

Anyone for green strawberries?

Last Friday, Mary and I, along with some of our other project partners, took about 50 members of the Carolyn Foundation on a local farm tour. The Carolyn Foundation is the primary funding source for the Puget Sound Food Project (PSFP), so this was an important event for us. Also, the tour served as a catalyst for us to clarify our project goals and methods.

We all met at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Seattle for introductions and a quick lunch. From the outset, all of the foundation representatives were very friendly, engaged and eager to ask lots of questions and chat up a storm. While not a formal bunch, they were all very serious about the foundation's mission and goals.

After lunch, we piled into a large tour bus and headed east, toward the Snoqualmie River Valley. Mary played the part of a tour guide and pointed out some sights and gave the group an overview of CHC, PSFP and the day's agenda.

Rough agenda:

-Tour Full Circle Farm. Farmer Andrew spoke about post-harvest handling and the importance of farm-related infrastructure, while showing off the brand new concrete slab that will form the foundation for the farm's on-site compost facility/machine shed.
-Bruce Dunlop of Lopez Island Farms and the project lead for the pastured poultry arm of the project gave an overview of his experience, the demand for pastured poultry and the basic outline of our plan.
-Tour Jubilee Farms. Owner-farmer Erick Haakonsen talked about the need to protect agricultural land for food and fiber production and how new agriculturally focused infrastructure would boost a whole range of positive outcomes for local farmers.

All in all, the tour was a great success. Everyone from the elders to the lil' 'uns seemed to have a great time, especially toward the end of the day when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds. I was surprised at the sophistication and variety of questions from the group.

Article Roll-call:

Ummmmm...food for thought? Not sure I agree that walking has a greater environmental impact than driving, but it spurs an interesting debate.

Supermarket bananas: A monoculture crop facing possible extinction

Population growth impact vs. claims of "city greening"

Monday, June 9, 2008

FoodLust Recap

FoodLust 2008 was a huge success! Thank you to everyone that attended and helped us raise close to $24,000 for Cascade Harvest Coalition, specifically our Washington FarmLink program.

In fact, the only issue at the event was the crummy weather. Sure, most of the attendees were hardened NW natives that aren't bothered by a spot of rain "to keep the dust down", but it seems like we've been mired in a looooooong trend of cold, gloomy and sopping-wet weather. Will it clear up? Traditionally, July 5th marks the true start of NW summer. This year, perhaps not.

Next up for Cascade Harvest Coalition: A visit from the Carolyn Foundation to discuss the Puget Sound Food Project and tour some local farms.


Article Roll-call:

Hedge funds pump money into food production

Cafe Juanita's Holly Smith is the 2008 James Beard award recipient for best chef in the NW

Congrats, Holly!

Friday, June 6, 2008


FoodLust 2008 is tomorrow!

It's gonna be a real wing-ding event that'll knock your socks off: some of the best food from the area, classy company, truly exceptional auction items and, of course, a wonderful cause and beneficiary: CHC.

More to come on Monday...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rewind and review

Yes, I've been slow on the updates....I apologize. In my defense, we do have a large benefit coming up (check it out here...sorry, it's sold out!) and I went to NYC for five days. That was my second time in the Big Apple and I left very impressed. The two standout items: the subway and walking. How does this relate to CHC, you ask? Simple: those two items make the city a better and healthier place to live...and part of our mission is to build healthier communities.

Here's an article from this week's New York Times entitled Salad Days for the Internet (no, I didn't pick it up in New York and yes, this will hopefully be the last mention of New York). The brunt of the article is that there are new and exciting ways for the average citizen (read: someone not part of the "choir") to buy locally grown food online. While the author doesn't delve too deeply into the positives or negatives of the various produce home delivery companies, the general tone of the article endorses them and their practice.

One of the companies spotlighted in the article is SPUD (Small Potatoes Urban Delivery). SPUD operates here in the NW and many of you may be familiar with the company. In fact, many of you may remember that SPUD recently bought Pioneer Organics, another online produce home delivery company.

Is this good? Is it bad? Is it somewhere in the middle? On one hand, it seems like a "green washing" effort, whereby companies claim to support local food systems, but their true allegiance is with greater profits. On the other hand, these companies are a fantastic way for the average citizen to start getting involved with local agriculture. One major question: do these companies actually work with local farms or do they buy all of their produce from large distributors? I think that's the rub right there. I mean, acting as a middle-man is one thing, but acting as a retail front while claiming to support local farms is a hoax. I waver on this topic. I'm not exactly sure where I fall. I think I'll wait to pass final judgment until we get a better idea of what these companies are actually doing. If they follow traditional businesses and, as they grow, lose their values, then it's a bad trend. If, however, they find innovative and constructive ways of dealing with local farms and providing greater access to local agriculture, then it's a great trend.

We shall see. In the next few posts, I'll write about our trip to Kitsap County to visit with farmer/author/ramble-rouser Joel Salatin and the enormous success of FoodLust 2008.


Article Roll-call:

Group works collaboratively with healthcare companies to improve quality

Fast Food Goes Organic

Beef Disputes

Monday, May 19, 2008

Setting CHC apart from the crowd

How do we stand out among similar organizations to become the "go-to" resource for Puget Sound area food and farming news and programs? How do we set ourselves apart from the crowd? How do we increase our value to the community and, in particular, to our members?

I guess the first point to address is whether or not there is a competition between all of the various "green" organizations. In a very general sense, no, there is not. Each organization purports to work toward a similar goal: a better world.

In a specific sense, yes, there is. Each organization has specific methods and tactics to create their vision of a better world and sometimes the strategies or vision of one group push or pull against another. I'll credit Andrew Stout, the owner of Full Circle Farm, with the phrase "coopertition", which is when organizations in the same industry work both competitively AND cooperatively. For example, say there are two farms, each offers a CSA program. One farm specializes in greens, the other in root crops. If they sell/trade their products to each other to add more variety to their CSA programs are they competing or cooperating? Is coopertition a good thing? According to the fundamentals of capitalism, the competitive aspects of the marketplace will foster/force greater innovation, creativity and effectiveness.

But, as a non-profit, we're not developing products for the marketplace, quite the opposite, part of our mission is to create useful programs that aren't available in the marketplace and work with people and groups not served by the general market. We provide programs that aren't commercially viable without external funding.

So, how are we stacking up against our "coopertition"? Well, it seems like we're doing pretty well. We are updating our methods of communication and information dissemination and making strides to improve the quality of information provided. See the new PSF newsletter for an example of both strategies in action.

I think that last point is especially important to our effort to step up and stand out: quality. I believe that, in a word, quality will answer all of the questions posed at the top of the post. With green organizations sprouting up every week or so, our continuing mission will be to have the highest quality information and programs for our community and members. Quantity is valuable in certain contexts, but, in the long run, quality is what people want and seek.


Article roll-call:

FarmLink gets mention in Seattle PI article about young farmers' difficulty finding reasonably priced land in King County

Farm bill helps some Washington farmers, but fails to change most galling policies

Friday, May 16, 2008

Summer days ahead....

Looks like we're in for a mini heatwave this weekend! Temps are already climbing above 70 and the forecast predicts highs in the 90s by Saturday. Which is ample reason to get out of the sun and into the temperature-controlled and fully air conditioned Tacoma Dome for the fourth annual Pierce County Livable Communities Fair. Kidding! If you're in the neighborhood, please stop on by and visit our booth...we'd love to see you there. If you're not in the neighborhood, then get outside and enjoy the sunshine.

I hope that the sun stays around, as we're heading out to the Tualco valley for a Tilth Producers Farm Walk at Willie Green's Organic Farm this coming Monday, May 19th. It should be a grand time, especially if we get some sunshine.

Writing of Willie Green's, we just recently interviewed the farmer and owner, Jeff Miller, which is published in the new and improved Puget Sound Fresh "What's Fresh NOW?" newsletter. If you're interested in signing up to receive the newsletter, which comes out every two weeks throughout the growing season, please send me an email (mark@cascadeharvest.org).

Random big thought for the day:
Many food products are grown or harvested in one place, then shipped to another to be processed cheaply, then shipped back to the original place to be sold, but that system's economic calculus is based on cheap labor and cheap energy and doesn't factor in the waste and pollution caused by the transportation. Success is measured by profits, with little regard for health (human and planet), social justice or the future. The current model doesn't work in the emerging conditions of the world. How will we change it for the better?

Good thing it's sunny. Go out and ponder this large idea and let me know what you find!


Article roll-call:

Measuring pollution on grocery bills

Food, friends are vitally important aspects when wine tasting

"Lollygagging" sturgeon collect in a giant ball to lounge, spend quality time together


Rising food prices=more gardens

Monday, May 12, 2008

Systems Thinking, part 2

Okay, so I had a whole weekend to work through my thoughts on the KCFFI visioning process and ....surprise! My thoughts haven't changed too much. I'm still a bit overwhelmed by the whole process and because we spent most of the time throwing ideas into the air instead of nailing them down, there are not many concrete tasks to report.

A tool that I picked up at the workshop that I think will extend into my professional and personal life is decision-making frameworks. I am excited to see how the various frameworks interact and look forward to critically analyzing the organization and development processes to figure out which methods work best for the initiative and, in a "side" project, my life. As a person who wants to make decisions based on my values, a strong, thoughtful framework is critical to my sanity and consistency.

Other stuff:

We got a glimpse of the latest version of the website today. Ryan stopped by to give us a brief overview of the Drupal program...we didn't get much of a chance to fool around with the program, but it was great to see the improvements in the layout/design and to learn a bit about how we'll manage content on the site.

We had a strategic planning meeting for Food Lust to make sure that we're all on the same page and working toward success for the final few weeks. It looks like we're headed in the right direction, but we're still short on wine for the bottle brawl and desserts for the dessert dash. If you're interested in donating either, please let us know.

Have a great Monday.


Article Roll-call

Mark's pick: Increasing food prices help shift our focus to a more sustainable agricultural economy

Urban sprawl is killing Puget Sound

Friday, May 9, 2008

Systems Thinking, or the day I learned about the importance of establishing core values

Hey gang, a great week...lots to report.

My Wednesday and Thursday were dedicated to attending a "visioning and planning meeting focused on organizational and systems thinking" for the King County Food and Fitness Initiative at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. Not just a mouthful, but a brainful as well. Going into the first meeting on Wednesday, I was prepared: I had blank paper; my favorite pen; some slick, professional clothes on; and an open mind. I definitely needed that last item.

First, let me write that I was incredibly impressed with the quality of people that attended the workshop. There were Leadership Council members, various industry representatives and, most importantly, many community members from Delridge and White Center. Also, the attendees were racially, ethnically and every-which-way diverse. In fact, out of 35 or so people, I was one of two white males. I think that's impressive. For me, that was fairly unusual. I pride myself on being accepting of all people, but most of the time, I'm probably with people that look like me. Most of us are like that. So, when I took a look around the room Wednesday morning, I got a little excited and thought "this is good. This is the diversity that we've been trying to capture. I think we'll get some interesting work done." Then I thought "oh, great. We're going to get nothing done, as everyone will either A) tip-toe around important issues for the sake of "political correctness" or B) no one will agree on anything and we'll spend all day arguing and forming into factions to plan against each other and promote singular views." Pessimistic, I know, but I've seen so-called "collaboratives" function in both ways (A and B) and neither way is effective or enjoyable.

Well, my initial thought was more accurate. The people that chose to show up did so because they believed in the vision of a better future for Delridge, White Center and King County and wanted to work collaboratively toward that vision. Very exciting.

**Note: I am having difficulty writing this. So much happened at the workshop, much of it in broad brush strokes of grand ideas...I'm not belittling it, quite the opposite, it's just hard to capture all of it, especially so soon after taking part. Bear with me.

Okay, in an effort to keep y'all interested and to make this a manageable post, I'm gonna sign off for the moment and try to process all of my thoughts, then continue with this topic on the next post.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Stokesberry Sustainable Farm Walk/Meat Meeting

On Monday, Mary and I traveled South for a WA state meat processing working group in Olympia...a meat meeting. Steakholders. Ha. After the meeting, we hopped over to Jerry Stokesberry's Sustainable Chicken Farm outside of Olympia for a Tilth Producers Farm Walk.

The meat meeting was a follow-up to a preliminary meeting held at the Small Farms Team Retreat in early April. The goal of THIS meeting was to determine whether or not there was sufficient support from the attending organizations to move the group from under the Small Farms Team into its own working group. Looks like we have another group formed! For now, the primary functions of the group are: to support the Puget Sound Meat Producers Co-operative (PSMPC) and their effort to build a USDA Inspected mobile slaughter unit; to wade through the language of the various regulations and connect with the regulatory agencies to compile a useful document that will help everyone (producers, buyers, processors, etc.) understand more about local meat production and processing; and to establish a collaborative network that will act as a sounding board and informational clearing house for future meat processing projects.

It was a fun meeting for me, because every time I think that I have my head wrapped around one of the many issues that we're trying to tackle, I'm presented with another angle/new information/different regulations/alternative approaches. I guess I'm learning that, while it's all part of the larger "food system", each issue has its own flavor and nuances. For instance, I did some research about the USDA and how to get a processing facility certified. It seemed fairly straightforward. Little did I realize the politics behind the curtain of simplicity. Turns out, you CAN call the number listed on the website to try and get someone to come out to inspect your operation, but you'll most likely end up verbally sparring with a series of machines. To actually get someone with enough inspection clout to encourage moving the process forward, you need to work the politics...start flipping through the rolodex to see who you know, who might know someone who is in the know. Sorry. I guess I feel a little flummoxed.

Many of CHC goals are simple and make sense to those with ample common sense, but often, the simple goal is shrouded in complicated regulations, contracts and sub-contracts, local vs. state vs. federal agency policies, and too many acronyms to count. Yes, many of those layers are installed for our own good ( ex. health dept. standards), but some of them seem gratuitous. Am I railing against government? Maybe a little, but my point is that these projects take a lot of behind-the-scenes moving and shaking and anytime the local food movement can claim success it means that a lot of people put in a lot of time to make it happen. One example is the recently passed Local Farms, Healthy Kids bill. That effort was built on guts and conviction. It took a lot of people from a lot of different groups working together to get that thing off the ground and into State Law. Hopefully, the PSMPC will be the next shining example of victory.

Okay, that's all for now. More to come on Thursday.


Article roll-call:

Mark's Choice: Reviewing our culture of consumerism, offering a case-study of an alternative way

McGovern-Dole Program

Olympia Food Waste Recycling

How "green" is biodiesel? Who produces it? From what? How much? What's the future for biodiesel as a viable energy source?

Follow-up to last week's piece about the growing scarcity of neighborhood grocery stores...this article comes from the other coast.

Weaning American farmers off high-priced food prices