Meet the Farmer: Skagit River Ranch

 

 

Market founder Judy Kirkhuff shares her experience at Skagit River Ranch Farm. 

 

ADVENTURES AT SKAGIT RIVER RANCH FARM

By Judy Kirkhuff

 

             September 24th was a beautiful morning. On the road before 7 o’clock, I headed north on I-5 to be there by 9am.  Since they only do this once every 3 or 4 years, I intended to be there from the beginning of the farm tour. Warm welcomes greeted me from everyone as I arrived with time to park, change into my rubber boots, and check in.

           Located behind their little farm store was a large shed that could accommodate as many as 200 visitors.  There was an area set up for kid's activities and lot of long tables where folks could eat lunch and chat.  A display of 5 raffle prizes sat just inside the door on a table and someone selling tickets for $1 each.  Down the side of the room were four local crafts people’s tables.  A woman was there with her jarred produce and recipe books displayed.  She helped me find a Green Tomato Pickle recipe to take home.  There were also herbal lotions, and soap makers, and handmade items.  On the room’s other side, was a sound system with benches and chairs for the audience of presentations scheduled for later.  

         About 10 am about 60-70 of us gathered around George who guided our tour of the Ranch.  All of us loved seeing the baby goats and chicks.  We passed through their family garden as we headed toward the cattle pasture.  Continuing on we saw the 3-4 months old pigs’.  They delighted everyone when they all came up to watch us, while we watched them.  George pointed out that our rainy Northwest climate meant our soil have an overabundance of certain elements, some not good, and a depletion of other nutrients.  For this reason, he regularly tests the beef to evaluate the status of their diet, and if he spots a deficiency, he adds other plants into the pasture that will provide the nutrients that the animals need.  Such efforts are a humane way to conduct animal husbandry.  

         We found the cattle pasture located along the beautiful Skagit River and the animals were grazing about 3 city-blocks away from where we stood.  We also spotted a large hen house with chickens scratching around the field nearby the cattle.  It was a perfect day with sun shine and a bucolic scene to enjoy.  Suddenly George gave a huge yell. He sounded a lot like Tarzan in the jungle.  The herd obviously recognized it because all of them lifted their heads and looked our way.  Maybe because we numbered so many people, the animals seemed to stand a while and consider what to do.  After a minute they began to meander slowly toward us.  In no hurry, some of them stopped to nibble the grasses along the way and we were given the chance to admire the river and foothills around us.

          As the herd came closer, George told us his was the first ranch in the nation to get a USDA grant for a “mobile processing unit” that is located on his property.  It’s this reason, the animals are never stressed by the only bad day in their lives: their last.  The normal procedure is to load them into a truck, travel many miles, then be herded into pens, often standing for hours with other animals they don’t know, finally they’re prodded into a noisy building that smells of blood.  This upsets the animals, and the mobile unit eliminated the flood of stress hormones into their bodies from the ordeal.  The result is a huge improvement in the quality and taste of their meat.  Some readers may have already experienced that for yourselves.  The best part of this tour, for me, happened as the cattle came closer, some of them called out with low and long “moos” that seemed to say, “We’re coming, George”.   After they arrived, we enjoyed the serene animals staring at us as we stared back and took photos.  We heard the dinner bell and headed back for lunch.

            Nicole Vojkovich organized an informational seminar that began during lunch.  The first speaker was Head Chef at the Microsoft campus, Elijah Coe.  He spoke of his project to keep the menus at Microsoft seasonal and local.  After lunch, Dana Mead, an Herbalist, presented how to forage and save herbs and medicinal plants for home use.  Then we heard Janice Strand, a Nutritionist, who discussed the importance of a diet rich in pro-biotics and amino acids.  These build the favorable bacteria in the gut that provides health benefits that health professionals are only beginning to discover.  They now understand that such diets improve our body’s absorption of vital nutrients, boosting the immune and central nervous systems.  The last presenter, Dr. Gary Moskovich, gave an entertaining speech about the basic things that are important for a healthy life.  Finally raffle prizes were awarded with a lot of humor.  After a day full of information, nice people, and a comforting farm atmosphere, we all felt wonderful as we said our goodbyes and thanks were everywhere as we headed home.

 

Meet the Farmers: Seattle Youth Garden Works

 Susan and Choega of Seattle Youth Garden Works. Photo: Jordan Lowe.

Susan and Choega of Seattle Youth Garden Works. Photo: Jordan Lowe.

This blog post is the handiwork of SFMA summer intern Jordan Lowe, who will be contributing regularly during the growing season. 

You can find two of the biggest smiles at Wallingford Farmers Market (and possibly for miles) at the Seattle Youth Garden Works vegetable stand. There you'll meet Susan G. (also known as "Suez") and Choega ThundrupSYGW veterans of five and six years, respectively.  A program of Seattle Tilth, SYGW hires youth (ages 16 to 21) to work all aspects of running an urban farm --  from crop planning to market sales. These young people -- many who have come out of homelessness, the foster care system, and the juvenile justice system -- are paid to learn how to grow, harvest, and sell their crops in a professional environment where they have room for advancement and opportunities to build their resumes and leadership skills.

The greens, herbs, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, and other produce that make their way to Wallingford Farmers Market are grown on a half-acre plot at the Center for Urban Horticulture in University Village owned by the University of Washington Botanic Gardens. There, SYGW use a combination of raised beds, greenhouse and hoop house to cultivate their produce. Construction is breaking ground in the coming weeks at Seattle Tilth’s Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands to make room for more vegetables, education, and youth development in 2017.

When you buy a bunch of carrots from Seattle Youth Garden Works, you’re certainly getting a handful of fresh, flavorful, juicy vegetables, packed with vitamins and minerals. But they’re actually packed with much more than that. Although it’s difficult to describe the flavor profile of youth development and true urban agriculture, we know they’ll leave a good taste in your mouth. (Bonus: they accept Fresh Bucks for everything on the table.)

SpringRain Farm & Orchard Comes to Ballard Farmers Market

Last Sunday you may have noticed a new farm in the market mix. SpringRain Farm & Orchard joined Ballard Farmers Market for the first time, but it’s  far from John Bellow and Roxanne Hudson’s first rodeo. John’s been farming in the Pacific Northwest for nearly 35 years, settling on 28 acres in Chimacum -- on the Northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula --  in 2008. Over the course of his career he has worked with WSDA on Organic Certification processes and he has taught farming across the world for USAID.

SpringRain produces year round, growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including silvanberries, heirloom tomatoes, apples and pears, and salad greens. They process chickens every Friday to bring the freshest they can to market, and always have hen and duck eggs. John is especially proud of his fryer rabbits, which you can buy from him on Sunday.

What does a Ph.D. in Agricultural Systems and Crop Ecology get really excited about, though? Jam! John and Roxanne use a special type of pectin in their jam that allows them to make it with no added sugar. It’s sweetened only by a little honey that they produce at Spring Rain. Word is that Strawberry Basil and Raspberry Chocolate are coming soon. Yum!

Stop by the SpringRain tent on Sunday and see what there is to see! They’ll have some of everything you need and plenty of Fresh Bucks-eligible fruits and vegetables. We’re excited to welcome SpringRain to the Ballard FM family.

 

Meet the Vendor: Seth Kitzke from Upsidedown Wine

Saturday, June 11 is National Rosé Day. Stock up early for the festivities at Madrona Farmers Market and get a taste of a Washington Rosé from new vendor Upsidedown Wine. Winemaker Seth Kitzke (of Kitzke Cellars) will be pouring samples this afternoon (Friday, June 10) from his 100 percent Nebbiolo Rosé grown in the Columbia Valley. Each Upsidedown vintage partners with a charitable cause and 20% of the proceeds go to it. Proceeds from Upsidedown’s 100% Nebbiolo Rosé go to support animal rescue organizations in Seattle and around the country.

Seth (pictured above) was born into winemaking and uses grapes he planted on his family’s vineyard when he was ten. Though he travels back to Richland, Washington often to help out and oversee the making of his wine, he and his wife have called Wallingford home for the last 6 years.

Upsidedown Wine is meant to be fresh, mellow, and easy to drink, so grab a bottle and celebrate the right way! The Nebbiolo is crisp with just the right balance of sweetness. Cheers! See you at market!

2nd Addition: March is National Soup Month: Now Use Fish for a Healthy and Sumptuous Basis for Great Chowders

When he's not clowning around at Wilson Fish, Tim Davidson is an international disaster relief volunteer for the Red Cross. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

SO WHY NOT TRY A CHOWDER FOR SUNDAY DINNER?

Any variety of smoked salmon you chose will make a fine main ingredient in a chowder that will become one of your favorites with this recipe from bbcgoodfood.com.  We recommend it for the simple ingredients and fabulous flavor. You can click this link to see what you think. It may inspire you to try it.  You might even want to send us a photo or video of you cooking, or eating the soup, or clowning around.  We think it would be fun to see how you do and what you think.

Now, let's talk Potatoes and Leeks.  Absolutely required, they can be found in abundance from most of our farmers.

First, Leeks:  Try Mee Garden, The Old Farmer, Colinwood Farm, Nash's Organic Farm, Pa Garden, Ia's Gardne, Growing Washington, Growing Things, and Stoney Plains.

OneLeafBabyLeeks

These shining and delicate flavored vegetables provide just the right touch.  But they always need to be washed thoroughly-they have a reputation for surprising people with globs of mud stuck between their layers of the top 2/3rds of the stalk.

HELPFUL TIP FOR CLEANING LEEKS:  Cut stalks into 2-3 inch pieces and remove the root end; place in a large bowl with cold water; and stir vigorously enough to see the beginnings of separation of the layers.  Allow to sit in the water long enough to begin to see the dirt come free from the layers, and give a good final rinse until you get the pieces clean.  Plan on using the bottom white portion up to the paler green pieces in your soup.  The greenest top parts can be placed in a bag & frozen to add terrific flavor to a clear vegetable broth made later, or you can compost them.

Now, the beloved Potato:  They too are available from your favorite farmer with little exception.  Pick the colors and textures you want.

AlmHillRussetPotatoes

KirsopPotatoes

The great news is Potatoes are so good for you.  Even without the skin, 1 medium potato will provide 70% of the Vitamin C you need in a day, 25% of the Potassium, 9% Iron and 8% Protein.  Add to that such nutrients as 30% of your daily need for Vitamin B-6, 18% of dietary fiber and 12% of Magnesium.  And I could go on, but out of courtesy to you, I'll stop here.

Finally, this recipe calls for heavy cream (BBC calls it double cream), but if you substitute yogurt from Samish Bay Cheese, or sheep yogurt from Glendale Shepherd, you won't regret it.

Sheep's milk yogurt from Glendale Shepherd. Photo courtesy Glendale Shepherd.

Jersey cow yogurt from Samish Bay Cheese. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

We'd love to see your innovations and how you do.  We are always interested in your experience.

Until then Bon Appetite!

Sunday, March 8th: Just A Few Of My Favorite Product Photos & My Farewell!

A heart-shaped tomato from Around The Table Farm at Wallingford Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to combine my three passions into one gig over the last eight years. I managed to find a job in which I got to help develop our local food system while at the same time writing about it and photographing it. What a blessing! I have been working with farmers markets since 1991, and I have served on the board of Seattle Chefs Collaborative since 1999. I also served as executive director of Washington State Farmers Market Association from 1999-2005, and in 2006, I co-authored the Washington State Farmers Market Manual for Washington State University. I have loved all this work, and I am proud of all we've accomplish here, leading the nation in local food. So even though I am leaving my farmers market job after today, I will still be around.

For this last official regular blog post for your Ballard Farmers Market, I'd like to revisit with you some of my favorite photos from over the years. Like the one above, taken at Wallingford Farmers Market last summer. This naturally-occuring heart-shaped tomato was grown by Poulsbo's Around The Table Farm. Yet one more reason to love vine-ripened, farm-fresh tomatoes over homogenous, boring tomatoes from the Big Box stores, if you really needed another reason.

An explosion of carrots from Gaia's Natural Goods. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

While the previous photo was copied all over the intertubes, it is this photo that actually circled the globe. Yes, this is my single-most plagerized photo ever, and I say that with pride (and a little bit of annoyance -- please don't republish photos without permission or giving credit!). I took this photo of baby rainbow carrots that look like an exploding firework not long before Independence Day in 2012. These carrots were grown by Gaia's Harmony Farm in Snohomish. I published this photo across all of our markets' blogs and Facebook pages for the 4th that year, and it just spread across the interwebs from there. Imagine how far it would have travelled had a vision of the Virgin Mother be visible in it?

Fresh sausages from Sea Breeze Farmat Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

I've taken a lot of nice photos of Sea Breeze Farm's meats over the years, but I've always liked this one of their sausages best. The sausages are all uniform in size and stacked perfectly, highlighted by the wooden butcher block below them. But what sets them off is that they are three such distinctly different colors. Kinda makes you want some right now, doesn't it? And that is what makes this photo so special.

Rutabagas from Boistfort Valley Farm at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Rutabagas are one of my favorite vegetables. I must owe that to my Irish heritage. My family eats them every Thanksgiving. Indeed, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without them. Then my Aunt Joyce taught me to add them to the corned beef pot on St. Paddy's Day. (You need to add them 15-30 minutes before your potatoes, as they're much denser.) They absorb all the flavors of the spices and meat. Nummers. I've also always found rutabagas to be quite beautiful, with their deep yellows and purples. And of all my lovely photos of rutabagas -- indeed, of all the thousands of images I've taken of markets over the years -- this one of rutabagas from Boistfort Valley Farm, spread out randomly in a wooden farm box, is one of my absolute favorites.

Framed cabbage from Full Circle Farm at Wallingford Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

This wonderful photo of symmetrically-arranged cabbages in a wooden box was taken back in 2010. They are from one of the gorgeous displays that Big Dave used to erect for Full Circle Farm at Wallingford Farmers Market. The image quality suffers a bit from my old camera's inferior technology, but the image is still nice, don't you think?

Chicories from One Leaf Farm. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

One Leaf Farm is known for growing lots of deliciously bitter members of the chicory family. They are quite beautiful, too, and in 2012, I managed to capture this image of escarole, treviso radicchio and Palla Rosa radicchio here at your Ballard Farmers Market. This image is now used on One Leaf's own website, which pleases me every time I visit it.

Romanesco from Full Circle Farm at Madrona Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Another of the most stunning vegetables -- one that magically grows in perfect fractals -- is this romanesco, a member of the cauliflower family. And my favorite photo is of this romanesco from Full Circle Farm at Madrona Farmers Market back in 2011. This photos has served as the cover photo for Madrona's Facebook page ever since.

Chinese spinach from Children's Garden. Photo copyright 2011 by Zachary D. Lyons.

But for my money, the most beautiful vegetable of all is this Chinese spinach. With its purple and green leaves, it is just flat-out stunning. Only two farms bring it to your Ballard Farmers Market each summer: Mee Garden and Children's Garden. This image is of some from Children's Garden from 2011. And in fact, before I published this photo and waxed poetic about the virtues of this gorgeous leafy green, these two farms were hard-pressed to sell any of it. Now, they can't harvest enough of it. And for that, I love you, good people of Ballard Farmers Market! You are willing to be adventurous in the name of eating local!

Broccoli in the field at Alm Hill Gardens. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Most people probably don't even think about what broccoli looks like growing in the fieldThis is what it looks like! That's the developing floret right there in the center surrounded by all those lovely, and edible, mind you, leaves. That's why I've always loved this photo from Growing Washington in Everson -- it surprises people. No, milk doesn't just magically come in a carton, and yes, broccoli does have leaves!

Winter squash from Summer Run Farm at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Winter squash is also very photogenic. And this photo of delicata and carnival squash from Summer Run Farm taken just this past fall happens to be my favorite. The colors are simply explosive, aren't they? No wonder so many restaurants will use their squash as decorations around the dining room for weeks before cooking them!

Cauliflower in every color from Growing Things Farm. Photo copyright 2011 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Did you know that cauliflower comes in so many colors? Just it this photo you'll see purple, yellow, green, white and green romanesco from Growing Things Farm. Seriously, aren't farmers markets so much more fun in every way than a boring Big Box store, where you'll only get white cauliflower, and it won't be remotely as sweet as this stuff is?

Viking purple potatoes from Olsen Farms at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Finally... and this is the big finally... in honor of Ballard's Scandinavian roots, and because this photos has actually been republished in national print magazines, let's finish off my celebration of my favorite product photos, and my role as Blog Master, with these Viking purple potatoes from Olsen Farms. Their magnificent purple skin belies snow white flesh that makes them a perfect masher.

Thank you for joining me week in and week out for all these years, as I have brought you the news of the day as to what's fresh now at your Ballard Farmers Market, with a sprinkling of snark and commentary. If at times my tone has seemed revolutionary, that is because the revolution starts here, on your fork. Know that I won't be too far away, and that you'll likely still see me around the Market on Sundays. Hopefully, I'll contribute the odd guest post in the future. And now that I have the time, I'll be whipping my personal blogs into shape with tales of food and adventure from near and far. You can find my blogs via mayoroffoodtown.com, though give me a couple of weeks to spit-polish them a bit, as they're a bit tarnished from years of neglect. (If you have need for a skilled writer, photographer or event organizer, contact me through that site.) And I won't turn down hugs today, either. (Unless you're sick. Just got over norovirus, and that stuff is just plain nasty.)

xoxo Zach

Just A Few Of My Favorite Photos Of Market People!

Hilario Alvarez of Alvarez Organic Farms harvesting fresh peanuts on his Mabton farm. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons. During my tenure here at your Ballard Farmers Market, it has been my pleasure to work with some of the best people anywhere. For my second to last post, I want to share with you some of my favorite images of them. This is by no means any more than a small fraction of my favorites. After all, I produced over 10,000 edited images for our markets in just the last four years alone.

One of my favorite things to do, ever, is to drive over to Eastern Washington to visit Alvarez Organic Farms, and more specifically, to visit Don Hilario Alvarez. A self-made man by any use of the term, Hilario embodies hard work, skill and pride. Last summer, I got to spend an afternoon with him while I did a photo shoot for the Washington State Department of Agriculture. We toured the pepper, tomato and eggplant fields, watched his crew stringing pepper wreaths, and watched as other crews rolled in with truckloads of produce ready to deliver to the farmers markets of Seattle. But I think of all the hundreds of photos I took that day, I like this one the best -- Hilario holding up freshly dug peanuts. Yes, he does grow them. He's proud of that. He should be.

Jessie Hopkins from Colinwood Farms sits atop the farm's antique, horse-draw potato planter. Photo copyright 2010 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Back in 2010, I travelled with my old Olympus camera over to Port Townsend for my first visit to Colinwood Farm. At the time, Colinwood was a relative newcomer to your Ballard Farmers Market, and so it needed an official farm visit. What I found there was an extraordinary farm stuck smack in the middle of a bunch of houses and a golf course right in town -- a farm with some of the deepest, richest, blackest soil I have ever seen, and with a system of greenhouses that, when coupled with the farm's handy location in the "Banana Belt," or the Olympic Rainshadow, was able to produce salad mix all winter long, and gave us squash blossoms in March. But it was this image of Jessie Hopkins on the farm's antique, horse-drawn potato planter that has always stuck with me.

Nash's Kia Armstrong and Wynne Weinreb of Jerzy Boyz. Photo copyright 2011 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Saying these are two of my favorite market ladies seems to land me in that same trap of knowing how wonderful all of them are at the Market. But my friendships with Nash's Kia Armstrong and Jerzy Boyz's Wynne Weinreb predates the start of my employ here back in June 2007, so I think I'm okay here. These two huge personalities helped make the Market the place I long to be every Sunday. And I miss them, what with Kia raising her kids in Port Angeles these days, and Wynne over in Chelan fighting a prolonged illness that kept Jerzy Boyz away from Ballard this past fall. But this image does bring a smile to my face, and it reminds us that we are one big family here. (Get well, Wynne!)

Clayton Burrows of Alm Hill Gardens (a.k.a., Growing Washington) talks farmers markets with Senator Maria Cantwell at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

My buddy, Clayton Burrows, of Growing Washington in Everson, doesn't get to visit us too much these days, either, but at least I get to see him when I visit my folks up in Bellingham. Clayton is not only a great farmer, he is a brilliant writer and speaker, and as such, he is a powerful advocate for our community. And that is why I love this image of him chatting up U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell two years ago at your Ballard Farmers Market.

David of Wilson Fish is despondent while Pete of Pete's Perfect Butter Toffee sobs over the fact that the fish is sold out at 11:30 a.m. on May 24, 2009. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

This is one of the first blog photos I ever published. See, the blog for your Ballard Farmers Market formally launched back in March 2009, though it really didn't get cooking until that May, when this photo was taken. It captures two of our Market's funniest characters -- Pete Brogi of Pete's Perfect Toffee and David Panida of Wilson Fish -- despondent over the fact that Wilson Fish sold out of fresh king salmon from the Washington Coast by 11:30 a.m.

I didn't realize how effectively camera shy Anselmo's Arlene Dabrusca was with me until I tried to find a file photo of her amongst the thousands I've taken at Ballard Farmers Market over the last five years. And while you can't actually see her face in this one, it is representative of what she stood for at Ballard Farmers Market. Here, Arlene has her face buried in the chest of her daughter, Marie, on a very cold November day in 2005, back when the Market still used to retreat into that little lot off Ballard Avenue, before we were on the street year-round. (Moshi Moshi now sits where that lot used to be.) You see, Arlene showed up every Sunday that Ballard Farmers Market has existed, regardless of the weather, until just recently. So while she may have been hiding from the camera, or protecting herself from the cold, still she was there, always. Photo copyright 2005, 2010 by Zachary D. Lyons.

I didn't realize how effectively camera shy Anselmo's Arlene Dabrusca was with me until I tried to find a file photo of her amongst the thousands I've taken at Ballard Farmers Market over the years. And while you can't actually see her face in this one, it is representative of what she stood for at Ballard Farmers Market. Here, Arlene has her face buried in the chest of her daughter, Marie, on a very cold November day in 2005, back when the Market still used to retreat into that little lot off Ballard Avenue, before we were on the street year-round. (Moshi Moshi now sits where that lot used to be.) You see, Arlene showed up every Sunday that Ballard Farmers Market existed, regardless of the weather, from the time the Market left Fremont to move to Ballard in 2000 until shortly before she passed in April 2010. So while she may have been hiding from the camera, or protecting herself from the cold, still she was there, always. Thank you, Arlene, for being our founding farmer. We still miss you!

Bacon from Crazy Farmer George at Sea Breeze Farm. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

George Page from Sea Breeze Farm knows his meat. He is intimate with it. He is proud of his sausage. He is... well, he is nuts! And while that might concern some folks who would see him handling this long, sharp knife, never fear. George's madness is hyper-focused on bringing back old world quality to meat and dairy. And that's why I love this image. It captures him in all his passionately-crazed glory. (Just don't lock stares with him for too long.)

The Market Crew from a few years back at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

It has been my pleasure to work with this wonderful bunch of young ruffians for so many years. These guys have been doing a lot of the heavy lifting around the Market for years, and the Market wouldn't exist without them. I captured this image of the Market Boyz several years ago at the end of a long day. Always been kinda fond of it, though I think it still haunts Skylar a little.

Oxbow Alice. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Alice VanderHaak, or Oxbow Alice, as most think of her, actually partnered up with Rand Rasheed during this winter to run One Leaf Farm this coming market season, but for years, she's been a fixture at Oxbow Farm. I've always liked this image of her, not only because she's just beaming in it, but because of the magnificent colors from the Oxbow banner that frame her.

Gil holds ducklings at Stokesberry Sustainable Farm. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Gil Youenes is Market Master Judy Kirkhuff's son. I have had the honor of watching him grow up into a really cool young man who now manages all of our markets. Two years ago, I got to take him out on his first series of farm visits. I captured this image of him at Stokesberry Sustainable Farm in Olympia. It was fun to watch this tough city boy get charmed by these adorable little ducklings.

Brian enjoys a fresh soda from Soda Jerk Sodas, as well as his new paper hat at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Your Ballard Farmers Market attracts a broad diversity of people from all over Ballard, Seattle, Washington and the world. And it is our customers and visitors that give the Market as much of its character and identity as anything else. Like Brian, a friend of Soda Jerk's Cory Clark, who donned one of Cory's classic paper soda jerk hats a couple of years ago for this memorable shot.

Little Marina loves her some Oxbow Farm broccoli! Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

And how can you not love this image of little Marina devouring a head of broccoli from Oxbow Farm back in 2012? Wanna teach your kids to love vegetables? Feeding them vegetables is a good start. Sharing with them the magic of your Ballard Farmers Market helps, too.

Jim holds a gigantic sweet onion from Nash's Organic Produce. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

And then there's Jim, who I captured with this gigantic sweet onion from Nash's Organic Farm one summer's day. Seriously, that sucker is as big as his head!

Jack the Bat Dog. Photo copyright 2010 by Zachary D. Lyons.

At your Ballard Farmers Market, we loves us some dogs. As I see it, spending Sundays with them here means I don't have to be responsible for them at my house. (I guess that's why I like being an uncle instead of dad, too.) We do appreciate, of course, that you do your best to keep Fido well-behaved and on a short leash, as we are selling food here, and there are those amongst us not quite as fond of Rover as we are. That said, my favorite dog image at Ballard Farmers Market is this one of Jack the Bat Dog. I mean, seriously, was there ever any question?

Mirror Man mesmerizes the masses at Ballard Farmers Market on February 20, 2001. Photo copyright 2011 by Zachary D. Lyons.

And then there are our street performers, or buskers. We don't pay them. You do with your tips. And they appreciate that. Your Ballard Farmers Market is the second biggest regular draw for street performers after Pike Place Market. Perhaps the most memorable of all of our many, many street performers over the years was Mirror Man. (Hey Mirror Man. Come visit us again sometime soon!)

MoZo rockin' the Market on May 24, 2009. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

And I'm just throwing in this photo of MoZo because for me, any photo of Mozo is one of my favorite photos. These global troubadours call Ballard home, and we've been enjoying them here for years, when they are in town. (Hey, where are you gals?)

Judy & Gil are proud of yet another pair of "Best Of" awards from Seattle Weekly. Photo copyright 2011 by Zachary D. Lyons.

I finish off this tour de peeps with this photo of Gil and Market Master Judy proudly displaying two of the many, many awards won by your Ballard Farmers Market over the years. Just the years' worth of awards from Seattle Weekly alone are enough to cover an entire wall of our office. Thank you Seattle, and beyond, for all your support, thank you, Judy, for giving me this opportunity to wax poetic and photographic for all these years, and thank you, faithful readers and viewers for making the blog for your Ballard Farmers Market one of the most trafficked farmers market blogs around!

Some Ballard Farmers Market Success Stories

Autumn Martin returns today with her Hot Cakes! Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons. In the People's Republic of Ballard, and especially at your Ballard Farmers Market, we know great, local food and drink. So it is no wonder your Ballard Farmers Market has been home to, and indeed a launching pad for, many now very familiar and celebrated names in the local food and beverage industry. And as I continue my personal countdown to retirement from this blog, today I celebrate just a fraction of the extraordinary folks with whom we have shared the street over the years, and the success they have so deservedly achieved.

Like Chef Autumn Martin of Hot Cakes, now with her own storefront just a block up from the Market. Most days, there is a line out the door there to eat her delicious chocolatey creations, but did you know Hot Cakes got its start right here on the street at your Ballard Farmers Market? Yep. We couldn't be more proud of you, Autumn. And just look at all of the press, from all over the world, she's getting!

Veraci Pizza co-owner Marshall Jett being interviewed by Food Network Canada. Photo copyright 2010 by Zachary D. Lyons.

This photo is from 2010, when a camera crew from Food Network Canada arrived at your Ballard Farmers Market to feature Veraci Pizza on their street food show, Eat Street. You probably see Veraci's mobile pizza ovens all of town -- heck, all over the Northwest. Besides their storefront on Market Street, they have a depot on 15th Avenue on Crown Hill will dozens of the trailers. You will also find them in Spokane, in Oregon and in Idaho. But did you know that they got their humble beginnings right here with us many years ago? Back then, they just had one, and then two trailers. Wow. We just love a great success story!

Kimchi, Krauts & more from Firefly Kitchens at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Firefly Kitchens got its start in a shared kitchen space in Frelard in 2010, introducing Seattle to what has now become one of the biggest trends in food: fermentation. They gathered up local veggies from area farmers and allowed them to naturally ferment with delicious and nutritious results. We liked them so much, we directed them to the Good Food Awards in San Francisco in January 2011, and low and behold they won! And they've been winning ever since! And while you can now find their products at finer grocery stores throughout the area, the finest grocery store for them is still right here at your Ballard Farmers Market!

Farhad from Tall Grass Bakery at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Yes, we all still miss us some Farhad, who retired from Tall Grass Bakery last September. So I thought I'd pay homage to him one more time whilst also reminding all y'all that Tall Grass Bakery also got its start with us, way back when your Ballard Farmers Market was wedged into the Fremont Sunday Market at 34th & Fremont, before Fremont was redeveloped and the Market moved to Ballard in 2000. They, too, shared a kitchen with another bakery back in the late 1990s. Now, they make some of the best bread in Seattle out of their storefront on 24th Avenue NW and bring it to you here at your Ballard Farmers Market, as well as other markets and restaurants all over King County.

Market Master Judy Kirkhuff with Nash & Patty Huber of Nash's Organic Produce at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

In 2008, American Farmland Trust gave Nash Huber of Nash's Organic Produce in Dungeness their annual, national Steward Of The Land Award. It is just one of many awards Nash has won over the years for the hundreds of acres and many farms he has not only kept in farm production in Clallam County, but that he has rejuvenated, rebuilding the soils, working with the local climate, and developing his own varieties of seeds that would thrive there. The result is a farm that is at its peak of production all winter long while many other local farmers are home reading seed catalogs or vacationing in Mexico. And like Bob Meyer, whom I saluted yesterday, Nash, too, has pioneered organic agriculture in Washington and helped many an up-and-coming farmer along the way!

Don Hilario Alvarez holding hot chile peppers at Alvarez Organic Farms. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Today, it is hard to imagine a farmers market around Seattle in August and September without the dozens of varieties of organic peppers from Mabton's Alvarez Organic Farms (currently prepping their soil for the 2015 growing season!). Don Hilario Alvarez, the farm's patriarch, is a classic American success story -- a true example of an immigrant who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps, scrimping, saving and investing, until he became one of the most admired organic farmers in the nation. Way back in 2004, ATTRAnews, the newsletter of the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, celebrated him in a feature story in their issue about Latino farmers.

Roger Wechsler of Samish Bay Cheese. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Back in 2010, Seattle was host to the American Cheese Society Awards, and frankly, our Market vendors mopped up the floor with its competition. And the winningest of all of your Ballard Farmers Market's cheese makers was Samish Bay Cheese, taking home four separate awards. Stop by and take a tasting tour on any Sunday right here, and you will understand why!

Janelle & Jerry Stokesberry of Stokesberry Sustainable Farm support I-522. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Ever wonder what makes the Seahawks and the Sounders play so well? We like to believe it is because they eat eggs and chickens from Stokesberry Sustainable Farm. Need I say more?

Tacos from Los Chilangos. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Oscar Mendez comes from a family of great Mexican cooks, and our markets are proud to have fostered them. Now, Oscar's Los Chilangos lays claim to being the only mobile taco stand sourcing its animal protein locally. He get it directly from local, sustainable and humane farmers, fishers and ranchers right here at your Ballard Farmers Market. He gets rockfish from Wilson Fish, beef and pork from Olsen Farms, and eggs from Stokesberry Sustainable Farm. Best of all, his food is wonderful!

Brent Charnley, winemaker at Lopez Island Vineyards, hold the new release of his Wave Crest White table wine. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

And I round out this tribute to the achievements of the many vendors we quite frankly consider our family... heck, our children... with neither the last nor the least of our award-winning, storefront opening, international media starring market heroes. This is Brent Charnley from LIV (a.k.a., Lopez Island Vineyards). One of our state's oldest wineries, the fact that it is certified organic makes it even more unique. Rarer still, it is located in the Puget Sound Appellation, Washington's coolest, dampest wine-grape growing region, producing many Germanic varieties of grapes, and a few French, that just simply won't grow elsewhere in Washington. And the list of awards their wines have won over the years is, frankly, almost embarrassing. Stop by for a taste to find out for yourself, and then take a great bottle, or three, home this Sunday!

Friday, February 6th: Patty Pan Grill Makes Own Tortillas with Nash's Flour!

The Patty Pan Grill crew, proud parents of new tortillas at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons. Patty Pan Grill has been pioneering eating local at farmers markets since 1997, which in modern farmers market terms is just about forever. Back then, there were only two neighborhood farmers markets in Seattle. Now, there are 15! They were the first to use lots of market-sourced ingredients and the first to become a worker-owned cooperative business. And now, with your help, they have become the first to make their own fresh tortillas using local flour!

Fresh, homemade tortillas from Patty Pan Grill at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Made from hard red wheat flour grown and milled by Nash's Organic Produce in Dungeness, Patty Pan's tortillas are made from only four ingredients: whole wheat flour, water, olive oil and salt. It doesn't get much simpler, or much more local, than that! And why did Patty Pan do this? Because for years they have looked for a local tortilla factory that would make tortillas for them from local flour, but none of them would budge. So they did it themselves... with a little help from their customers -- that's you! --  who successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign to help make it happen. That helped Patty Pan invest in the commercial kitchen equipment necessary to produce their own tortillas on a scale that can keep up with their farmers market sales. So stop by Patty Pan Grill this Sunday at your Ballard Farmer Market, and taste their latest pioneering innovation!

Midweek Update for Thursday, January 29th: Seahawks Eat St. Jude Tuna, Too!

Canned local albacore tuna in a variety of flavors from Fishing Vessel St. Jude at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons. Did you know that, not only do our beloved Seahawks eat eggs from Stokesberry Sustainable Farm, but they also eat albacore tuna from Fishing Vessel St. Jude, and they are even making a special dish for the Hawks using both ingredients! "We have been selling [tuna] to the Seattle Seahawks this past year," said Joyce Malley, who owns F/V St Jude with her husband, Joe. "They make a deviled egg (3 halves) with our tuna that contain 19 grams of protein," which is a perfect protein portion for any Super Bowl champ!

Local albacore tuna loins from Fishing Vessel St. Jude at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons..

This recipe is our Market Master's version of the Tuna Salad with a Kick developed by F/V St. Jude's owner.  The ingredients below are those used by the Seahawks' team chef. Super Bowl Party Devil'd Eggs with Albacore Serves 4-6 Hard boil eggs by placing eggs in pan of cold water. Place the pan on high heat and boil for 3 minutes. Turn heat off, and leave eggs sitting in hot water for 5-8 minutes, depending on size of eggs used (the larger the eggs, the longer the time). Then immediately rinse with cold water to stop cooking, and place in refrigerator until ready to peel and use.

  • 4 eggs (2 per person) from Stokesberry Sustainable Farm
  • 1 - 6 oz can albacore tuna of Fishing Vessel St. Jude
  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Terrapin Ridge Wasabi Lime Mustard (or substitute your favorite mustard)
  • 1/4 cup Coarsely chopped water chestnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. cracked Black Pepper (or to taste)

Flake albacore into a medium to large bowl. Mix in mayo, water chestnuts, mustard and pepper. until ingredients are thoroughly mixed together. Serve with rice crackers, or roll in rice paper to form spring rolls and slice into serving sizes.

What the tuna infused deviled eggs look like on our undercover camera at the Seahawk's VMAC training facility in Renton. Photo courtesy Fishing Vessel St. Jude.

Stop by your Ballard Farmers Market this Sunday before the big game and pick up tuna and eggs to make this dish. Heck, you can even get mustard seeds from Nash's Organic Produce and make your own mustard for this dish in time for the Big Game. Go Hawks!

Midweek Update for Thursday, January 22nd: Seahawks Chow!

Jerry Stokesberry of Stokesberry Sustainable Farm holding one of his delicious chickens at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons. Did you know that the Seahawks (and the Sounders, actually) get chickens and chicken carcasses from our very own Stokesberry Sustainable Farm? Yup. They use them for stock and such. See, it is just one more way that our two very successful football teams take advantage of every opportunity to help their players be the best that they can be... in this case by feeding them high-quality, humanely-raised, delicious and nutritious certified organic chickens from a great local farm.

Chicken (top) and duck eggs from Stokesberry Sustainable Farm at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

If that weren't enough, legend has it that Russell Wilson will only eat duck eggs from Stokesberry Sustainable Farm. He has been said to watch the team chef take those eggs out of the Stokesberry carton and crack them into the pan, just to make sure that's what he's getting. Lesson, if you want to be the best, you have to put the best in your body!

Go Hawks!

Sunday, August 4th: It's National Farmers Market Week! Tomatillos, Eggplant, Cherry Plums & All Manner Of August Localiciousness!

Farm-fresh honey from Boistfort Valley Farm. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons. Hey kids! It's National Farmers Market Week! Yes, a special week proclaimed by dignitaries, elected officials and bureaucrats that actually celebrates something that matters to us. Go figure. But hey, sooner or later, it had to happen, right? So come celebrate with us today. Now, I won't bore you with lots of proclamations from the governor, the county executive and the mayor -- and trust me, they've all issued them -- no let's celebrate with all the amazing local products and people who bring us our precious Ballard Farmers Market week in and week out, year-round, in rain, sleet, snow, sun, wind, hot and cold. We are more reliable, after all, than the postal service. And let's start this party by honoring perhaps the most important beings in our local, and global for that matter, food system: honey bees. Without them, we would all starve. Really. And yet we silly humans are creating environmental conditions that are killing honey bees by the millions. What can you do? Eat organic. Stop using pesticides. Raise your own honey bees. Pay attention. You wonder why we have less honey in our farmers markets today than we did five years ago? That's why.

Jim Robinson of Phocas Farms shows how his saffron crocuses have multiplied over the winter. Photo copyright 2010 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Your Ballard Farmers Market is loaded with lots of characters who, out of a labor of love, a love of creating delicious food and quality goods, and a love of community, come here every week at 0-dark-30 from all over Washington to set up their tents and tables while you are still asleep, just so you will be able to stock up on their seasonal goodness every Sunday. One such character is Jim Robinson from Phocas Farms in Port Angeles. Jim may be best known around the Market for his hundreds of varieties of succulents and his wild appearance, but he is best known by Western Washington's finest chefs for the incredible saffron he grows.

Saffron? Yes. It is so prized by local chefs that his entire crop is pre-sold every year before it is even harvested. And yet Jimmy is quite tall -- not the best physical characteristic for raising a crop that demands one to be hunched over down low most of the time. Plus, he and the sun don't get along all that well. You may have noticed that he is always covered head-to-toe at the Market, save for his face, which is a ghostly white. That white is industrial strength sunscreen, because Jim has light-sensitive lupus. And yet, he busts his hump year-round raising beautiful plants and spectacular saffron, then stands under his tent -- outdoors in the daylight -- every Sunday with nary a whimper, but instead a laugh, a smile, a flirtatious expression and a firm embrace. Why? Cuz he loves what he does and where he does it -- right here at your Ballard Farmers Market. Kinda makes it hard not to love the guy, or this place. Oh, hey, speaking of saffron, Jimmy has saffron corms for you this week, and for the next few. The chefs in town may not have left any of his saffron for you, but you can still plant and grow your own. Get them in the ground this month, and you will have your very own saffron later this fall!

Japanese eggplant from Alvarez Organic Farms. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Alvarez Organic Farms has their first Japanese eggplant today, along with about a half dozen other kinds of eggplant. They have also just begun harvesting tomatoes, okra and tomatillos, too. You know, it’s kinda funny, but some folks have been thinking that eggplant is late in arriving this year. In reality, it is right on schedule, and just everything else is early, making its arrival appear late by comparison. Go figure. I love grilling these beauties. I slice them down the middle and salt them about half an hour before I grill them to pull some of the bitterness out. And make sure to coat them well with olive oil. Mmm.

Janelle Stokesberry holding a chicken and a dozen eggs from Stokesberry Sustainable Farm in Olympia. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

You ever wonder why the Seahawks are so much better lately than any of the other professional sports teams in Seattle? Is it maybe because they eat Stokesberry chickens, perhaps? It's as good a theory as any, I suppose. Janelle & Jerry Stokesberry raise organic chicken, turkey and duckeggs, beefpork and lamb on their Stokesberry Sustainable Farm in Olympia. I can't wait until they have stewing hens, because I love to make chicken soup with them. And their chickens and ducks, as well as their eggs, can be found on the menus of many of the best restaurants in Seattle. Have you tried the sausages made from their pork by Link Lab Artisan Meats? They are great. And I've personally visited their pigs happily slopping through the mud in the spring, little piglets chasing each other around all over the place. Hilarious. If you want your meat and poultry raised well by farmers who care about their animals, and that tastes good, too, they've got you covered.

Rubels blueberries from Whitehorse Meadows Farm. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

These are Rubels blueberries from Whitehorse Meadows Farm. They are a domesticated wild huckleberry from the East Coast. The berries are small and full of flavor, and they remind me of the wild blueberries we used to pick while hiking up Cadillac Mountain in Maine’s Acadia National Park. I remember I used to eat my weight in them.

George Vojkovich out standing in his field... with a bunch of cattle. Photo copyright 2007 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Look! It's Farmer George Vojokovich of Skagit River Ranch, out standing in his field. That's him in the upper-lefthand side of the photo. And he is that. Outstanding in his field. His pasture alone in this photo can testify to that. It is lush and green and up to the shoulders of his cattle. And this photo was taken in August! He lets them eat it down to about 6", and then he moves them to the next pasture. The idea is that the cattle will eat a diversity of forage, not just their favorite ones, and the pasture will recover faster and be healthier. That keeps them healthy, and tasty. And that's what makes George a dirt farmer more so than a rancher.

Farmer George is also nothing short of a scientist -- you really have to be in this business -- and he tests his animals to make sure they are getting all the nutrients and minerals they need. After all, the Skagit River Valley is low in a number of key minerals. So, based on the reports he gets, he actually adds minerals either to the pastureland, so it is taken up by the forage, or he puts out self-service stations where the cattle can actually stock up on what they need. They're a bit smarter than us when it comes to that. The result of all this is some of the best beef you can find around here, and certainly better than anything you'll find in the big box stores. Better, and better for you and the cattle.

Copia heirloom tomatoes from One Leaf Farm. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

One Leaf Farm is really cranking out the heirloom tomatoes now in a whole host of varieties (see the photo spread on our Facebook page). Just take a gander at these gorgeous copia tomatoes for instance. They are a rainbow of colors and the big ones are all kinda weird looking, but hey, they taste absolutely incredible. To quote Chef Gordon Ramsay, "they are the most amazing, stunning tomatoes ever." Okay, he didn't really say that, but those seem to be the only two adjectives he knows, and I've been wanting to give him a hard time about it for a long time. Chef, get thee a thesaurus, for the love of Mike! You're welcome. But do beeline it to One Leaf for tomatoliciousness right now.

Roberto Guerrero from ACMA Mission Orchards. Photo copyright 2013 by Nicole Reed.

Meet Roberto Guerrero of ACMA Mission Orchards in Quincy. He and his family grow a stunning variety of tree fruit, from apples to peaches to cherries to nectarines, on their beautiful farm just north of the Gorge Amphitheater. And just in the last two years, they secured organic certification for all of their acreage. How can you tell an orchard is organic? Simple. Look at the undergrowth under the trees. Do you see all that grass and brush? That's the sign of an organic orchard. Seriously. They are overgrown under the trees, and most go through and mow and grind up brush just a few times each year. Then, they leave the debris right there to decompose, returning nutrients to the soil and keeping out undesirable weeds that conventional farms would have to sprayed. Plus, it helps keep the ground moist and cool when it's really hot over there. You may see a jungle in this photo. I see a healthy orchard producing delicious fruit!

Honey Smoked Albacore from Fishing Vessel St. Jude. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Fishing Vessel St. Jude makes its monthly visit to your Ballard Farmers Market today. Woohoo! I often feel like Bubba Gump when I start to list off all the delectable forms in which you can acquire St. Jude's albacore tuna. They have it cannedfresh-frozen, jerkied, and even honey-smoked (above). The canned comes in a myriad of wonderful flavors, too, and the frozen is sashimi grade. Stock up today. We won't see them again until Labor Day Weekend!

Cardamom Zucchini Sweet Bread from NuFlours gluten-free bakery. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Name change alert! d:floured gluten-free bakery (my favorite saucy name for a bakery, mind you) has changed its name to nuflours. Apparently, someone else had their grubby paws all over their old name. So, many lawyers and much research later, they now have a new, not-so-saucy but equally functionally name, with the same logo and same great gluten-free products. Like this cardamom zucchini sweet bread that features zucchini from Stoney Plains Organic Farm. The point is, regardless of the name, you can still have your cake and your gluten-free diet, too.

Dragon's Tongue beans from Growing Things Farm. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Growing Things Farm is deep in the fresh beans right now. They have six different varieties, ranging from green to yellow wax to purple runner to these Dragon’s Tongue beans, above. And did you know that Dragon’s Tongue beans will eventually grown about to be shelling beans, too? Pretty cool, huh? And delicious! Oh, and they want to thank you for supporting their successful Kick Starter campaign, too.

Green bell peppers from Lyall Farms. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

It’s pepper season, and over the coming weeks, we will see an ever-increasing variety of peppers arriving at your Ballard Farmers Market. We start off with these humble green bell peppers from Lyall Farms, and we are already seeing some of the over 200 varieties of peppers grown by Alvarez Organic Farms starting to appear this week. 2013 is on pace to be an epic year for peppers!

Cherry plums from Tiny's Organic Produce. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

From the pages of the confused fruit handbook come these cherry plums from Tiny's Organic Farm. But unlike so many other stone fruits that have been hybridized to create things like apriums, pluots, nectarcots, peachcots and more, cherry plums are actually a true plum, not a cross betwixt cherry and plum. They get their name from their small, cherry-like size and their color. But they have the flavor and texture of a plum. So mix it up this week and try yourself something new... or actually old, in this case.

Tropea onions from Oxbow Farm. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Ah. The lovely and divine tropea onion. I love these beauties. And I do recall hearing the lovely and divine Alice of Oxbow Farm (the growers of these onions) say that they are, in fact, her favorite onion. Named for the town of Tropea on the toe of Italy's boot, these sweet onions are so popular in Italy that they are synonymous with "red onion" there, though that would be confusing here in the states, with the many red varieties we have. But if everyone just tried one of these, in salads, on the grill, sautéed or cooked down to make an awesome sauce or garnish, perhaps they would become synonymous with red onions here, too, because they may indeed be the best of the reds.

Chocolate-Coconut Fudge from Pete's Perfect Toffee. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Pete's Perfect Toffee has introduced yet another flavor of fudge, because after all, there is no such thing as too much fudge. The new flavor, pictured above, is chocolate-coconut fudge with toasted almonds. Oh, stop it, Pete! You're killing me... with sweet deliciousness!

Hand-forged blue steele pans from Blu Skillet. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

"Carbon steel pans are great for searing and caramelizing - and they make fantastic over-easy eggs! They are similar to cast iron, but forged rather than cast. This makes the pans lighter and easier to handle, as well as less porous and quicker to season.  They can take high temperatures, and they can go from stove top, to oven, to table - where they make a beautiful addition!" Sometimes, it is just easier to quote the vendor's website, you know? Especially when it is as well-written as is the site for Blu Skillet Ironware. Patrick Maher and Caryn Badgett make these gorgeous pans right here in Ballard.

I do most of my cooking on stainless steel pans from Revere Ware. When they were first introduced in 1938, Revere Copper & Brass made a point of referring to them as exhibiting the best of both form and function, and that was important after the Great Depression. After all, if you were going to spend money on cookware, you want it to last, you want it to work, and you want something you can show off to your dinner guests. And today, as we limp our way out of the Great Recession (because even though it was, in fact, a depression, apparently it is not cool anymore to actually call it that), things are no different. We want quality, form and function. Blu Skillet gives us just that. I have been putting one of their 10" pans through its paces for a week now, cooking everything from halibut to corned beef hash in it, and it works great. It is getting more seasoned with ever use. It browns and sears great. It cleans easily. And best of all, it is made right here. Yup, one more thing you don't need Corporate America to do for you anymore! Booyah!

There is plenty more local deliciousness waiting for you today at your Ballard Farmers Market. Just check What’s Fresh Now! for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now.

Please remember bring your own bags every Sunday, as Seattle’s single-use plastic bag ban is now in effect. Also, please take note of our new green composting and blue recycling waste receptacles throughout your Ballard Farmers Market, and please make an effort to use them correctly. Each container has what’s okay to put in it pictured right on the lid. Please do not put the wrong materials in, because that drives up the cost of recycling and composting, and it can result in the entire container being sent instead to a landfill. Your understanding and cooperation are appreciated.

Sunday, September 5th: Awarding Winning Market & Vendors! Of Firsts, Seconds, Thirds & Fourths!!!

According to the USDA, there are 6,132 farmers markets at present in the United States. And in the American Farmland Trust's national 2010 America's Favorite Farmers Market Contest, your Ballard Farmers Market finished #4 in the large market category. Not too shabby. Thank you, good folk of the People's Republic of Ballard, Seattle and Washington state for voting for Ballard. And to those who didn't vote for Ballard out of fear it would draw even more people to Ballard Avenue every Sunday, you can rest assured that those crowds are headed to Rochester, NY now. And if you believe that, I have some condos in Belltown I'd like to sell you!

Speaking of contests, the 2010 American Cheese Society Convention & Competition was held here in Seattle just last week, and three Washington cheese makers that sell right here at your Ballard Farmers Market won awards. Estrella Family Creamery, out of Montesano, won three ribbons, including First in Class (smoked Italian styles category) for their Weebles cheese, First in Class (sheep or mixed milks category) for their Caldwell Crick Chevrette, and a Second Place Award was given to their Jalapeño Buttery in the Flavored, Peppers category.

Samish Bay Cheese, out of Bow, won four ribbons, including: First in Class for their Ladysmith cheese in Fresh Unripened Cow’s Milk Cheeses category; Second Place for their Aged Ladysmith in the Farmstead Cheeses up to 60 days category; Third Place fro their Ladysmith with Chives in Farmstead Cheeses with Flavoring category; and Third Place for their Yogurt Cheese (Labneh) in Cultured Products from Cow’s Milk category.

And Mt Townsend Creamery, from Port Townsend, won First in Class for their Seastack cheese in the Soft Ripened category. Congratulations to all the great cheese makers of Washington, who have so impressed the rest of the world over the last 5-10 years that they drew this major national cheese event to Seattle this year. And don't forget that three more of those great Washington cheese makers -- Golden Glen Creamery, Port Madison and Sea Breeze -- also sell great cheese at your Ballard Farmers Market. Blessed are the cheese makers, indeed!

The boats of Loki Fish have returned to Washington waters from Alaska after a long summer fishing up north. Now, they are harvesting Frasier River sockeye salmon just south of the Canadian border, and you can get some of this amazing fish fresh today.

Though we may be bemoaning the summer that never completely arrived this year, as we rapidly descend into fall, one thing we can celebrate is an early and vibrant fall wild mushroom season. Just look at these spectacular lobster mushrooms Foraged & Found Edibles has right now. And if you still don't know why they are called lobster mushrooms after seeing this photo, you need to either adjust the color on your monitor, or you need to look up what a lobster looks like after it's been steamed.

Cippolini onions are another of those wonderful heirloom Italian crops that so many farmers around here enjoy growing. Cippolini onions, like these from Oxbow Farm, are kinda squat in appearance, more disc-like than bulbous. They caramelize magnificently. Just imagine them on some crostini, or over a nice steak.

Another great Italian crop is San Marzano tomatoes, like these from Pipitone Farms. These are the tomatoes of Naples, growing in the rich volcanic soil of Mt. Vecuvius. They are prized for their rich, thick, meaty flesh that produces what many consider the finest tomato sauce on earth.

Looking for spices and rubs? Check out Seattle Spice. They offer a huge selection of spices, blends and rubs to accent the Market fresh goodness you'll take home tonight. Stop by and just enjoy the aroma of the sample tins.

Sidhu has a fresh wave of raspberries coming on from their fields in Orting. Above are their big, juicy and tangy Caroline raspberries. They also have ever-bearing raspberries now. And they still have plenty of blueberries and blackberries, too.

Just look at all these beans from Growing Things Farm! Green beans. Dragon Tongue beans. Yellow wax beans. Purple beans. I'm thinking pickles. Or casseroles. Maybe sauteed with bacon and pearl onions. How about a nice stir fry with pork or shrimp. Or perhaps a bean salad. Ah, beans!

Ailsa Craig onions are not only one of my favorite onions to eat, they are also one of my favorites to say -- Ailsa Craig! (Say it with your inner Scot.) These beautiful heirloom onions hail from Scotland originally. These are a sweet onion with a wonderful flavor, great sauteed, caramelized, roasted, grilled and raw. Prana Farms grows them for us here, along with many other heirloom crops.

Alvarez Organic Farms grows more than 150 varieties of peppers, some of which are varieties they have developed themselves. Above is just a small sampling of the many hot chili peppers they grow, in all their colorful glory. Peppers vary widely in flavor and heat, so experiment with them to find which ones you like the best.

And there is much more waiting for you at your Ballard Farmers Market today. Just check the What's Fresh Now! listings in the upper right-hand corner of this page for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now!

Sunday, August 22nd: The Finest Local, Healthy, Sustainably-Produced Meat, Seafood & Poultry

Reason #34,872 why you should vote right now for your Ballard Farmers Market as America's Favorite Farmers Market before the voting closes at midnight on August 31st: 11 different vendors selling meat, seafood and poultry they produce sustainably directly to you. You won't get quality animal proteins like this anywhere else, unless you find it elsewhere from these very producers. But then, why would you do that? Why not give these good folks all the money, right? Cut out the middle man! And let's start by saluting Fishing Vessel St. Jude and its superb Washington coastal albacore tuna. Did you know that albacore tuna spawn in the icy waters of the North Pacific? Yup. And St. Jude catches them as teenagers swimming south to tropical waters, which means the fish are still very low in mercury and very high in omega fatty acids, making this tuna, be it fresh loins, canned, smoked or jerkied, the best friggin' tuna you've ever tasted, and tuna that ain't gonna kill you, either.

Stokesberry Sustainable Farm raises organic chicken, duck and beef, and even the occasional rabbit I hear. What they produce is so good that you will find in on the menus of many of the most celebrated restaurants in Seattle. I love that they actually cut up their chickens into parts so I can just get a couple of legs or a bag of giblets without having to get the whole bird, though I can get the whole bird if I want to. (In fact, I think I saw Jerry Stokesberry giving me the bird once. Perhaps I said something inappropriate, or cut him off in traffic.)

Olsen Farms may be known for its extraordinary selection of heirloom varieties of potatoes, but they also produce some amazing beef, lamb and pork, too. And besides steaks, roasts and chops, they offer sausage, salami, bacon, ham, smoked hocks, and even the odd dog chew. And I hear their animals sometimes get to eat some of their potatoes, too. The cool thing about that is, when you cook their bacon, you don't need hash browns. But you should probably have some anyway, made from Olsen potatoes, of course.

At Wilson Fish, they like to say, "If our fish was any fresher, it would be from the future." In most cases, the salmon, halibut, rockfish and true cod you pickup from them at your Ballard Farmers Market was swimming the day before. These guys are catching this fish on the Washington coast, bringing it back to Olympia the same day, filleting and bagging it, and bringing it to you the next day, and mind you, they are doing this usually after another farmers market the previous day. If you haven't tried their fish, you are really missing out on something special. Just don't get here too late!

Years ago, I drove out to Growing Things Farm in Carnation to pickup one of their chickens for my family's Thanksgiving dinner. My family has not eaten a Thanksgiving turkey since. Honestly, it was the best chicken we'd ever tasted. Trust me, if you have never had a truly farm fresh, pastured chicken -- if you are still eating chicken you buy at the Big Box Store, regardless of whether it is labeled "organic" or "free range" or whatever -- you simply must try one. Once you do, you will never go back. Consider yourself warned!

Who doesn't love standing in front of the refrigerator case at Sea Breeze Farm, thoroughly examining each of this week's offerings of beef, pork, lamb, veal, chicken, duck, sausage, pate, stock, bacon, and on and on. It is magnificent, is it not? It is also incredible. The meat is extraordinary. And the sausages are nothing short of masterful. (And, I have discovered, they are also addictive.)

Samish Bay is best know for its cheeses, which, by the way, you must stop by and try. But they also raise great grass-finished beef and pastured pork. And hey, if you are going to use lard in your recipes, don't you really want to know where it comes from? I mean, the stuff in those cans at the Big Box Store... do you really trust it? And besides, the fat of pastured pigs ain't gonna kill you quite so quickly, and it'll make your pies taste better, too.

Pete Knutsen, owner of Loki Fish, is one of the great rabble-rousing heroes of local fishers here in Seattle, battling the brain trust at the Port of Seattle for many years to protect our beloved Fishermen's Terminal as something that is for working fishers, and not for the yachts of rich tourists and Microsoft millionaires (not that there's anything wrong with rich tourists and Microsoft millionaires, but they can park their @#$%@#$!!!ing yachts in Shilshole Bay or on Lake Union, not at Fishermen's Terminal, for the love of Mike!), and he has suffered the Port's retribution for it. But without Pete, I am not sure we would still have Fishermen's Terminal at all. So lift a pint to Pete tonight, and pickup for dinner some of the amazing salmon he and his family bring to your Ballard Farmers Market every week. They catch five different species of salmon in Alaska and Washington waters, and they handle it with tremendous care. Besides fresh and smoked salmon, they offer salmon lox, jerky, patties, sausage, roe, canned salmon and a bunch of other salmon goodness.

Writer Michael Pollan has made farmer Joel Salatin, who farms in Virginia, into this folk hero who as hit the speaking circuit now himself. And sure, Salatin deserves it, I suppose. But if I want to hear someone wax poetic, and scientific for that matter, about farming and animal husbandry, I would just as soon spend an afternoon with Farmer George (a.k.a., George Vojkovich) of Skagit River Ranch. Honestly, I have never met anyone more chock full of knowledge about raising livestock sustainably than George. Indeed, I spent a day with George on the ranch, and I learned all about how he cares for his animals to an almost obsessive degree, from caring for the soil out of which their forage grows, to tending that forage, to whistling and calling the herd from one pasture to the next all by himself -- not even with a dog. I even got to see the mobile slaughter unit in action on the farm, a system of dispatching the animals right on the farm in a lower-stress environment that the USDA inspector onsite told me was the most humane method he has ever seen. So if you want healthy, guilt-free meat and poultry from animals that live happy lives, visit the Vojkovichs today at your Ballard Farmers Market for chicken, beef, pork, sausage, ham, bacon, and more.

Goat is the most commonly eaten meat on earth. It is just we Gringos that don't eat it. Gee, could it be because we are uptight Americans? I mean, even the French and British eat goat. It is lean with a flavor a touch milder than lamb. I love the stuff. Quilceda Farms in Marysville produces delicious goat meat. They offer it in steaks, chops, roasts, shanks, sausages and more, and they conveniently provide a huge collection of recipes you can choose from to help break you in.

Oyster Bill Whitbeck of Taylor Shellfish is one of truly large personalities at your Ballard Farmers Market -- a genuine legend in his own time. He has played a key role in connecting us all to the wonders of Washington shellfish over many years of hard work. Each week, he brings to Market some of the best oysters, clams, mussels and geoduck one can expect to find anywhere on earth, and yet it comes from right here!

Indeed, it is somewhat of an embarrassment of riches we enjoy at our beloved Ballard Farmers Markets. Think about it. How often do you hear some tourist or visiting relative or friend wandering through the Market commenting that they don't have markets like this in their state. Okay, maybe you haven't been to farmers markets in other states, so you think this is the way it is everywhere. Heck, it is isn't even this way at other markets in this city, let alone other states! 11 different vendors selling their meat, seafood and poultry -- 12 in the winter, when we are joined by Cape Cleare Fishery. And then there's the six cheese makers, two grain growers, the honey, the bakeries, the foragers, the flowers, the cider and wine makers and all that incredible produce. Not to mention all the camera crews from around the world we have to negotiate around. Honestly, are you telling me you still haven't voted for Ballard Farmers Market as America's Favorite Farmers Market? Please, vote now. We've only got nine more days!

And remember, there is plenty more for you to find today at your Ballard Farmers Market. But before you click on the What’s Fresh Now! pages to see what all else is in season right now, please do take a moment to vote for Ballard Farmers Market in American Farmland Trust’s America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest. And thank you!