I often talk about the importance of knowing your farmers. By knowing your farmers personally, you can ask them when you have questions about how your food has been raised.
I've also talked about how eating as a locavore (a person who eats only locally grown food as much as possible) allows a person the pleasure of helping to support people you know and care about by doing business with them.
What I haven't talked about much are the specific people I've met in my own locavore adventure here in Whatcom County. So, in the spirit of the holidays, I'd like to introduce you to a few of them (an incomplete list, and in no particular order).
It's been a big year for Amy and Skuter Fontaine at Terra Verde Garden (Everson). In October their first child was born, a little boy named Rudy. Amy and Skuter introduced locally grown ginger to those of us in the Bellingham Farmers Market crowd a few years ago. Nice to have their ginger handy in the freezer at this time of year! And I have an entire shelf in my pantry with jars of their organic tomatoes.
Terra Verde recently acquired some chickens from Marvin and Lynn Fast of Red Barn Lavender. Marvin and Lynn have had a big year, too. They decided it was time to retire and sell the farm so they can spend more time with their family. We will miss them and their eggs, lavender butter, and hilarious chicken stories, but we wish them well as they turn the page to a new phase of their lives.
Mike Boxx at Boxx Berry Farm was one of the first farmers we met. The generous spirit of Mike and his family has provided substantial support to members of the Ferndale community as well as people in other parts of the country. It was at Boxx that we learned about u-pick operations, where you can pick your own food and save money, too. Boxx's crisp cucumbers, free pickle recipes, and tall dill plants have also become a cherished part of our annual canning ritual. Best. Pickles. Ever!
Just down Northwest from the Boxx's is the Appel family. For years now we've been enjoying their artisanal cheese (love the smoked gouda and "squeaky cheese"). It was fun recently to interview John and learn more about how their family got into the cheese business. We're excited to see their brand new store which might be completed by the time you read this.
At the Farmers Market, I always enjoy Roslyn McNicholl's sense of humor and obvious joy in her work (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson). Don't get me started about her smoked cayenne peppers, without which the locavore life would not be worth living. (Well, almost.)
There are so many others: visionaries John and Dorie Belisle at BelleWood Acres (Lynden) transitioning from small farm to diversified food enterprise; Tom and Cheryl Thornton at Cloud Mountain Farm Center (Everson) morphing their farm into a nonprofit training and research organization; Robert Rienstra of Backyard Bees (Bellingham) with his insights into a whole other species on which much of our food depends; Mike Finger (Cedarville Farm, Everson) raising high-quality poultry; Paul Chudek (Second Wind Farm, Everson) and his delicious grassfed beef; Lis Marshall (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island) with her handy farm store just a short walk up the road from where I live. I could go on and on, but I have page space limits (and my sincere apologies to everyone not mentioned).
Besides farmers there are the women at Acme Farms and Kitchen who are trying to develop a food delivery system; the women at Whatcom Farm to Schools working to place locally grown foods into school lunch rooms; people at Community to Community working to ensure fair labor policies for field workers; the folks at Scratch & Peck Feed, Sustainable Connections and the Non-GMO Project - all doing important food work. And so many others whom I haven't even met yet.
These are a hardworking, creative, idealistic lot, and they are all my heroes. Without them being who they are and doing the groundbreaking work they do, my world would not be as rich and satisfying as it is. They feed my family, and I am grateful without limit.
Happy holidays to them, and to you as well!
SQUASH CIDER SOUP
2 small or 1 large squash (I used spaghetti squash from a friend's garden, Lummi Island)
2 tablespoons butter (Breckinridge Farm, Everson)
1 onion, chopped (Alm Hill Gardens, Everson)
1 teaspoon dried sage, minced (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
1 teaspoon dried chopped jalapeño pepper (friend's greenhouse, Lummi Island)
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 cups beef or vegetable broth (homemade with soup bones from Second Wind Farm, Everson)
1 cup apple cider (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
1 pound tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used Jonagolds from BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
Cut squash in half across the middle. Put halves cut-side down on a plate and microwave for about 10 minutes on high until squash flesh is soft. Remove seeds and any tough center, and discard. Remove squash meat from the shell, and discard the shell.
Chop the remaining squash into 3/4-inch chunks. (For spaghetti squash, use a fork to scrape out the squash meat. It will naturally form spaghetti-like strands.)
Meanwhile, heat the butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion, sage, thyme, jalapeño and salt. Sauté until onion just begins to brown, about 3-5 minutes.
Add 1 cup broth, cider and the apple slices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, until apples are softened. Add more broth, if needed. Add squash and simmer for another 15 minutes or so to blend flavors. Taste and correct seasoning, if necessary.
Use a stick blender, or blend in batches in a regular blender, to puree the soup. Reheat, if necessary.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen, 1313 N State Street, Bellingham
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959
BelleWood Acres, 6140 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-318-7720
Bellingham Country Gardens (u-pick vegetables), 2838 East Kelly Road, Bellingham
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158
Five Loaves Farm, 514 Liberty St., Lynden
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151
The Green Barn, 211 Birch Bay-Lynden Road, Lynden; 360-318-8869
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190
Joe's Garden, 3110 Taylor Avenue, Bellingham, 360-671-7639
Lynden Farmers Market, Fourth and Front streets, Lynden
The Markets LLC, 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020
Reach Whatcom Locavore columnist Nancy Ging at 360-758-2529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, go to Whatcom Locavore on Facebook or @whatcomlocavore on Twitter. For locavore menus, recipes and more resources, go to whatcomlocavore.com.