Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Good Food" screening at North Seattle Community College

What: Good Food Film Screening
When: Thursday, January 22nd 7-9pm
Where: Homewaters Project at North Seattle Community College

I will speak about CHC, local food, farmers-as-stewards of the land, the Homewaters Project and more, before the screening. Plus a Q & A session after the show. If you haven't seen the film, swing by and check it out.


Friday, January 16, 2009

"Nominate Your Favorite Food Revolutionary" and other fun Friday stuff

Happy Friday, everyone!

A few ideas/items before I tackle the meat of today's post:

1. We started a "drop-in" tally sheet. In late November, right before our board retreat, Mary and I tried to estimate how many people dropped in on us, unannounced, to pick our brains (mostly Mary's) for information and feedback. I put the number at 64, or 16 per week. Mary guessed 16, or 4 per week. After some discussion, we decided to include drop-in phone calls, which are essentially the same as an in-person drop-in: people calling, unannounced, for information. So we made a tally sheet. The goal is to see how many people we deal with outside of the parameters of our programs. We're not complaining. We love helping people and talking about what we do, we just want to get a clear picture of how much time we spend doing it. We encourage you to swing by the office or give us a ring. We're always down to shoot the breeze. Just be prepared for some furious scribbling and "inside-joke-style laughter" as you walk in the door.

2. We've sent out invitations to potential board members! Right now, we are running with a skeleton crew of six board members. Good thing those six are dynamos. At the board retreat, we brainstormed a list with a bunch of new faces that we'd love to see helping us build a better foodsystem and we can't wait to start hearing back from some of our long-time friends and colleagues.

3. The CSA Directory is almost ready to go to the printers. We are still waiting on a few farms to send us their updated information for 2009, so once we get everything penciled in, we can start production. I hope we can get the print proofs before the month is out.

Okay, "Nominate your favorite food revolutionary." Seattle Weekly has teamed up with the Pellegrini Foundation for the third annual Angelo Pellegrini award, "which honors lifetime contributions to food in the Puget Sound region." Boo-yah. What a great award!

Quick aside: I love the Seattle Weekly, especially the food section. Helmed by Jonathan Kauffman, the SW food staff does a kick-ass job of reporting both short- and long-term food news and stories. Their blog, Voracious, is a great resource for up-to-date goings-on abour town and an enjoyable read. Not an easy feat. If you haven't checked out the SW lately, take another look. Well worth it.

Back to "Nominate your favorite food revolutionary." Do it. I know who I'm nominating....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2009 Farm Guide -- Apply for ad space today!

Here's the announcement:

The Puget Sound Fresh Farm Guide, now entering its 30th year of circulation, is the go-to directory in the region for farms, farm products, harvest events and farm-related businesses. Advertising your farm or business in the Farm Guide is an affordable and highly effective way to reach potential customers interested in local food and farming. Nearly 100,000 copies are distributed to potential customers via libraries, coffee shops, farm stands, doctors’ offices, community centers, regional events/trade shows, and more. In addition to the printed edition, the Farm Guide is also available online at the Puget Sound Fresh webpage, which is one of the most visited food and farming websites in the region.

Consumers trust the Farm Guide to be the most comprehensive food and farming consumer resource available. Farm Guide readers will find:

• Farm Listings: up-to-date contact/location info, product availability, and compelling descriptions of the farms and farmers.
• Farmers Markets: locations, operating dates, and what products and events customers can expect to find.
• Seasonal recipes: what to do with that Patty Pan squash you got from a local farm? The Farm Guide has a bunch of useful recipes all from local farmers and chefs.
• Event Calendars: find out what’s coming up in 2009, from county fairs to harvest celebrations to u-pick opening dates and more.
• Your farm or business!

“The Farm Guide is a resource I turn to when I'm trying to track down a particular food, but it's also one of my favorite places to find things to do in summer and fall. Visiting farms during county harvest festivals, getting out of the city to check out some new farm stores--even the ads are a great resource,” says edibleSEATTLE magazine editor Jill Lightner.

Right now, you have an opportunity to secure a spot in the 2009 Farm Guide. Advertise in the 2009 Farm Guide and declare your support for local farms in the Puget Sound region.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Meeting with Sustainable Connections and Farm-to-Table Workshop

We had a meeting this morning with a group of folks from Sustainable Connections, which is, according to their website a "non-profit membership organization of 600+ NW Washington business and community leaders working to transform and model an economy built on sustainable practices. We envision business practices that lead to Strong Community, Healthy Environment, Meaningful Employment, and Buying Local First as commonplace in our region and a model for the rest of the world."

We sat down together to try to figure out where we might be able to partner with each other and which messages we would try to push in 2009. Essentially, we were trying to get on the same page so that we can help each other out. I think it was a really productive meeting and helped us find some great opportunities for collaboration this year. In fact, we have a collaborative event coming up in the near future:

North Sound Farm-to-Table Workshop

Join us for an afternoon workshop to network and discuss how to strengthen our local foodsystem in the Northern Puget Sound counties.

Who: Farmers, food artisans, local food processors, vintners, chefs, bakers, restaurateurs, grocers, and school, hospital, or nursing home food service representatives interested in direct marketing opportunities.

What: A networking meeting to connect local farmers and producers with local food buyers. An educational workshop to share and discuss solutions to barriers within our local foodsystem.

When: Monday March 2nd, 2009 1-5pm

Where: WSU – Mount Vernon Research and Education Center

WSDA – Small Farm and Direct Marketing Program
WSDA – Farm-to-School Program
Northwest Agriculture Business Center
Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland
Sustainable Connections

Contact Information: Mark McIntyre (206)632-0606

If anyone is interested in attending, please let me know!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Flood pics from Garden Treasures Farm

Mark Lovejoy sent us some pics of the flooding around and on his farm near Arlington, WA.

Click here for more information on flooding and for a list of flooding resources. We will try to add more information about how to help flooded farms as it comes to us.

FYI: Just found out about this nifty website that predicts flooding for Washington rivers from Mike Peroni's blog (of Boistfort Valley Farm).


Monday, January 12, 2009

Sign-up for the 2009 Farmer-Chef Connection!

Yee-haw! The Farmer-Chef Connection, organized by the Seattle Chefs Collaborative, is one of my favorite events of the year. It's a big meet-and-greet for local farmers and local chefs, complete with "speed dating", tasty lunch (locally sourced, of course), and this year one of the break-out sessions is all about in-house charcuterie! As I wrote earlier: yee-haw!

The conference will be held at Herban Feast's new-ish space, called "SoDo Park". Local restauranteur legend/celebrity chef Tom Douglas, Luke Woodward of Oxbow Farm, and chef instructor/author Greg Atkinson will speak/lead discussion panels. It promises to be a fun, worthwhile event for chefs and farmers.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Food safety and local food

There's a lot of chatter in the blogosphere in response to Bill Marler's Ten Top Food Safety Challenges for 2009. According to his website, Mr. Marler is "an accomplished personal injury and products liability attorney." Challenge #2 is local food:

"Outbreaks linked to local food and/or farmer's markets. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups and food co-ops need to demonstrate knowledge and practice of food safety, and be inspected. In addition to produce and meats/fish, prepared items are currently unsupervised in some, but not all locations."

This is amended copy. The original post did not include "but not all locations." Prior to the amendment, the local food blogs lit up with chatter, ranging from anger to applause.
Devra Gartenstein, owner of Patty Pan Grill and blogger on The Quirky Gourmet, took issue with Mr. Marler's targeting local food,

"Marler makes the claim that prepared foods at farmers' markets aren't regulated, an assertion that is nothing short of bizarre in light of the fact that it's simply untrue, and also potentially harmful to many small-scale producers like myself who pay through the nose for permits, and follow health department regulations."

Read the rest of her post here.

The Ethicurean, a wonderful local food blog, also took issue with Mr. Marler's targetting local food.

Food safety is a critical and difficult policy issue, especially as we move forward in the globalized/localized struggle. The balance between public education/awareness and policy/regulation is difficult. Anything we do to our bodies (read: eat) is a personal choice and involves personal risk. But at what point is the producer/processor of a food product liable for their product? If I buy carrots from the farmers market, I wash them off before I eat them. If I buy carrots from a supermarket, I wash them off before I eat them. That's just what I do, but not everybody follows the same rules. If I get a stomach ache from eating carrots from either retail location, what do I do? Sue the pants off somebody? Demand that the government inspect every carrot? Seriously, I don't know. I'm asking. And rambling.

As farmers in the Puget Sound battle swollen, flooding rivers, we will surely grapple with the question of food safety at farmers market in the next few weeks. Back when I worked for a local farm, we suffered a massive flood...and there was no specific policy for us to follow regarding what we could or could not sell/eat. Instead, we were handed the FEMA flood policy that was developed shortly after the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. Obviously two very different scenarios: one, rural, unidirectional, seasonal, the other, primarily urban, stagnant, and catastrophic...yet only one policy. That's a small example of how many questions and concerns, by producers and consumers alike, that have yet to be answered by food safety policy.



-Bill Marler's blog is awesome. He tackles a variety of food safety topics and has an enjoyable writing style, with wit, humor, and durn-good research. Go check it out.

-There was a comment conversation between Marler and Gartenstein on the Green Fork Blog.

Food Trends of 2008: a look back

More trendwatching! This time, we're looking back to see what was hot in 2008. A bunch of Seattle-area restaurants are name-dropped throughout the article, including Sitka & Spruce, Cascina Spinasse, Tilth, Sutra, Poppy, Joule, Monsoon, Boom Noodle, Cache (a supper club), Quinn's...whew. Lots of great restaurants, lots of great ideas.

Though, with all of the back-patting and lovely descriptions of strange techniques and innovative dishes, the title of the last trend provides an ominous glimpse into the future: "The Recession Effect." I refer you back to an article written a while back by the Seattle Weekly's Jonathan Kauffman titled "Is Seattle Currently Experiencing a Restaurant Bubble?", which discusses an interesting twist in the story of restaurants and recession.

Seattle has a delicious and, according to the national media, up-and-coming food scene. I'm hoping that it continues that trend, in spite of our nation's economic woes.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Local products taste test? Yes, please!

Ann Lovejoy, who writes "The Green Kitchen" in the Seattle PI food section, wrote an article in today's paper, "Put local produce to the taste test, and enjoy." Yep. That's a bold statement in favor of local food. Any time you throw the word "test" around, you know that the writer is serious. Y'know, because "testing" carries a lot of scientific clout. But seriously, her reasoning for the triumph of the taste of local produce is much more about how local food provides a unique sense of place, than it is about white lab coats and test tubes. She writes, "the sun and rain, the soil and the biota, nature and the farmer have combined to nourish the mother plant and produce the root, shoot or fruit you are eating." In wine language, we'd call it "terrior".

It's a great idea to hold a local produce taste test. Perhaps we should organize one. Post ideas for a tasting menu to the comments section.

Read the rest of the article

Of course, local chefs have known the secret of local food for a long time. On the front page of the same PI food section is an article about rising stars in the Seattle food scene.
In that post, there's a link back in time to the last batch of rising stars in the Seattle food scene from 2003. Lots of familiar names there that are now the superstar chefs of today. Check out the intro paragraph:

"Fresh. Local. Seasonal - For the Rising Star Chefs of Seattle, these terms are a given. The game they play demands a different strategy, to push these terms further - and we aren't talking just herb gardens here. From growing their own vegetables to changing what local farmers already grow, these chefs command a higher sense of purpose. Still think of Seattle as the capital of coffee and umbrella collections? Think again, Seattle is coming up in the food world, fast. They may have to change the motto from the City of Goodwill to the City of Great Food."

Bottom line: chefs know it. Food writers know it. For sure, farmers know it. Now go find out what everybody's talking about when they say local food tastes better.

Speaking of local food tastings, the Volunteer Park Cafe has a Wine Dinner coming up on January 10th, spotlighting àMaurice Cellars.