Sunday, July 31st: Of Camera Crews, Farmers Out Standing In Their Fields, Legends Of The Biz & Other-Worldly Stone Fruit.

There was a camera crew from the Port of Seattle at your Ballard Farmers Market last Sunday. Why? Well, apparently there is some sort of international conference of ports meeting in Seattle next month, and they are putting together a presentation on all the great things Seattle has to offer. And needless to say, though I will anyway, no such presentation would be complete without a segment on your Ballard Farmers Market. After all, Ballard Farmers Market is Seattle's favorite farmers market, right? The question I have for you now, all 3,000 or so of you who will read this epistle this week, is do you believe Ballard Farmers Market is America's Favorite Farmers Market? Because we need your vote! And don't get all, "But we want to keep this our little secret" Seattleite on me, either. Besides the fact that that ship has already sailed, if we win this year, we get $$ to help us make the Market even better, and you get free "No Farms, No Food" canvas bags! So please, take a moment to vote for us now. It is the simplest thing you can do today to thank us for all the hard work we put in to bring you this grand market every week, year-round, rain, sun, snow, wind. And thank you!

Aliens!!! No, just donut peaches from Collins Family Orchards. Sure, they look like a weird flying saucer, and some even get nicknamed "Saturn peaches." Whatever you wanna call 'em, I just call 'em delicious. Yep, these are my favorite peaches, bar none. Amongst the newest of peach varieties, I remember when I first encountered them while I stayed on a farm in Naches in 1999, just a few miles from Selah, where these particular donut peaches, above, are grown. It is perfect fruit growing territory, as the fruit at Collins Family Orchards will tell you.

Actually, one of the perks of my job is that I get to visit the farms represented at the Market. This past week, I had the pleasure of visiting several, including Silver Springs Creamery, way up north in Lynden, so close to the Canadian border that there were more cars with BC plates than Washington plates. And if a picture speaks a thousand words, this one speaks for farmer Eric Sundstrom's close relationship with the cows and goats that produce the extraordinary milk he brings to Market every Sunday for us to enjoy. As we walked out into the pasture to meet the girls, they all came right over to us to say hi. And among the many things I learned from Eric during my visit is that healthy jersey cows that will produce plenty of good milk should actually show some ribs in their profile, like the one in the photo above. Eric said that at first, he thought these were unhealthy cows, but as he learned the business, he found out that it's just the opposite for dairy cows. And the proof is in the milk, yogurt and cheese he brings to Market every Sunday. If you haven't tried it yet, you are really missing out.

I also got to visit Jessie's Berries on Fir Island, near Mount Vernon, where I got to walk through the rows of raspberries, doing plenty of quality control as I did. Sorry, I don't have photos from there, as it was raining like crazy on Monday, and my camera and water just don't mix well. And if you are wondering why strawberries are now gone, you can blame that rain. But hey, if we can get, finally, a few weeks of warm and dry, we may get us another round of strawberries in a few weeks.

Hey, it's sweet corn season folks. This corn is from Lyall Farms. I got to visit their farms a couple of years ago. This corn grows on their property in Sunnyside, where it's hotter and drier than just about anywhere else in the state. Good corn-growing territory. Alan plants several successions of sweet corn varieties, so he can get about eight weeks of corn harvest out of it. Hey, that means we've still got seven weeks to go!

After a brief hiatus, Phocas Farms is back at your Ballard Farmers Market. In fact, this will be the first late-summer we've got Jim here with his gorgeous succulents, and this time of year, they are in all their glory, hatching chicks, throwing flowers and exploding with color. You can plant succulents easily any time of year. But this time of year, you can really get a sense of what they look like at their peak.

Perfect pickling cucumbers from Stoney Plains. You know, these pickling cukes always remind me of the late Bob Meyer, the patriarch of Stoney Plains, and a founding farmer of many farmers markets in Washington, as well as the Washington Tilth Producers. For years, I have made my pickles using these cukes. And I always think of my friend, Bob, and I miss him. But he lives on in the wonderful produce his family still brings to Market every week, year round. You can order your pickling cukes by the 25 pound bag from Stoney Plains, sized to your needs, and they can even set you up with pickling dill, also now in season.

Harmony's Way raises milk goats. And with the milk those goats produce, they make soap. This soap. See, goat milk soap is very mild on your skin, so if you are sensitive to many other soaps, you might want to give this soap a try. And this particular soap, pictured above, is their new bath-sized bar of plain, as in scent-free, goat milk soap. Treat yourself to some soapilicious luxury today!

Another farm I visited this past week was Alm Hill Gardens. Here, farm manager Clayton Burrows stands in one of their tomato hot houses and explains the difference between determinant and indeterminant tomato plants. The indeterminant ones will just keep growing taller and taller, producing more and more fruit, so farmers string them up like this in hot houses to help them do their thing. You can see lots of ripening beefsteak tomatoes lower on these plants. Indeed, some of these very tomatoes will likely be at your Ballard Farmers Market today!

Sea Breeze Farm makes a lot of amazing artisan sausages. One of my favorites is this Romanian beef sausage, but they don't make it very often. In fact, I've been begging them to make it for months! Well, they have it today. In the photo above, Chef Tara Miekle of La Spiga prepared some on Friday at our Madrona Farmers Market in a fresh sauce she made from Market tomatoes, garlic, onions and fennel, then sliced and served it on some Tall Grass baguette. Oh, yeah, baby. That's living!

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!