Did you know that few things are more patriotic than shopping at a farmers market? (Begin humming patriotic song in your head now.) Yup. In fact, George Washington help found the farmers market in Richmond, Virginia in the mid-1700s because he was tired of watching his fellow farmers, like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, getting ripped off by England and France when they would ship their harvests to Europe, only to end up in debt instead of getting paid. Fact is, much is the same today with farming. Farmers selling to packing sheds and distributors still end up in debt instead of solvent because they don't get paid for months after their harvest, and always at a fraction of the retail dollar, while they have to take out loans for big banks to cover their expenses, which are, of course, due immediately. And these banks have no trouble swiping the land if the farmer gets behind just a little. Then they turn the land over to corporate agribusiness interests or developers. Farmers at farmers markets, on the other hand, get cash money from you at the time of harvest that they can use to pay bills, and they get the whole retail dollar. (Above: red, white & bluish roots from Full Circle Farm.)
Farmers markets are bastions of democracy and free trade the world over. And talk about sticking it to the man! Did you know that farmers markets, which I like to refer to as the second oldest profession, have survived every tyrannical government in human history? Heck, the recent revolution in Tunisia was ignited when the government tried to crack down on people setting up produce stands in the streets. It is said that every society is just three meals away from a revolution. The Soviets knew that, and so they allowed farmers markets to flourish. If they didn't, they would have been hard pressed to feed the people, and revolution would have followed. Heck, that's how the revolution started in this country -- a tyrannical government began screwing with the food supply. (Above: Pipicot apricots from Pipitone Farms.)
We Americans will be grilling stuff, drinking stuff and blowing stuff up tomorrow as we celebrate our nation's 235th birthday, much in the way John Adams envisioned it so many years ago. Why not make this Independence Day that much more special by celebrating in a way that honors Farmers Adams and Washington, with local deliciousness from your Ballard Farmers Market? Jefferson believed that a vibrant farm economy was vital to the strength of the nation. So do it for our founders, for our country and for our farmers! Declare your independence from dead corporate food! (Above: summer squash from Alvarez Organic Farms.)
Many an American will be enjoying a scene like this one tomorrow, but how many will be able to enjoy it with burgers and sausages from Skagit River Ranch? And talk about celebrating independence! Did you know that in order for Skagit River Ranch, and other small farms in NW Washington, to be able to sell their meat direct to us, they had to fight with the USDA for years. See, what few meat processors were are in Washington required farms to bring a minimum of 50 or more animals in at a time. Numbers like that begin to border on factory farming. And it's stressful for the animals and the farmers. So in 2001, a bunch of farmers in San Juan, Island, Skagit and Whatcom Counties got together to create the nation's first USDA-inspected mobile processor that can go right onto the farm. The USDA had fought it for years, but in the end, the farmers prevailed. It's better for the animals, better for the farmer, and better for us. And the proof is in the meat. So celebrate Independence Day by grilling meat produced by true revolutionaries: Skagit River Ranch!
More and more veggies are coming in, now that the sun is beginning to win the battle with the clouds and rain. Like these snow peas from Stoney Plains that would be just lovely tossed in a veggie grill basket on the barby tomorrow. You know, it's time to ask a favor: please vote for Ballard Farmers Market in the 2011 Seattle Weekly Best of Seattle readers poll. Deadline is July 19th.
Another local revolutionary in the world of food is Pete Knutson of Loki Fish. He has fought tirelessly to protect our dear Fishermen's Terminal from developers and rich yachters. I mean, it's called Fishermen's Terminal for a reason, you know. It is the base for Seattle's family fishers, and it is part of Ballard's heritage. So when you enjoy Ballard SeafoodFest next weekend, raise a glass to Pete! And pick up some fresh ikura -- salted keta row -- processed on his boat in Alaska and sent down for you to enjoy here.
I'm not sure what patriotic commentary I can make about this basil from Alm Hill Gardens, but it sure is a welcome sight this year. Talk about a tough year for farmers, with all the crops late. But don't just show up today looking for the sexy stuff in the photos. Build this week's menus around what our farmers have, not what you wish they had. This is the year to prove that when you say you support local farmers, you mean it. Buy what's in season at your Ballard Farmers Market, not what you wish was in season that instead you get from a Big Box Store that was grown in Mexico or California, because you just can't wait. The farmers need your support now more than ever since this crazy locavore movement began around here. Show them you aren't just a fair weather friend. Wait to eat sweet corn until August.
Let's finish off with one last bunch of local revolutionaries: local family dairy farms. Hundreds of dairy farms in Washington have been driven out of business because they got forced in dairy co-ops that kept getting bigger and bigger until they crushed the farmers like bugs. But a few farmers said to heck with the big boys. We'll do it ourselves. Silver Springs Creamery is one of those, and they produce some of the most amazing jersey cow milk you will ever taste. They have to jump through a lot of hoops to bring this beautiful product direct to you at your Ballard Farmers Market. Indeed, one day last week, they had to deal with regulators from the county, state and feds all in the same day. Of course, they passed just fine. But when you are doing it all yourself, it can feel pretty daunting. But they do it anyway, because they want to offer you, with pride, a higher quality product than you can get from big dairy companies. Their cows feed on lush, green pastures. They are treated with care. And they treat the land with care, too. In fact, Silver Springs is certified Salmon Safe. And you'll find their prices are quite competitive with anyone else's milk, too.
There is much more waiting for you at your Ballard Farmers Market today. Just check What’s Fresh Now! for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now. And please remember to vote for your Ballard Farmers Market in the 2011 America’s Favorite Farmers Market Contest!