Friday, March 26, 2010

Many little seeds are planted

People have been asking me where my interest in local food and chickens began. When I was a kid the only people I knew who had chickens were the weird neighbors who sold Shaklee, ate carob instead of chocolate, and whose mom wore a crocheted bikini to sunbathe.

And so my knee-jerk reaction is "Heck, no, we weren't like that! This is an interest that has developed since I became an adult."

Upon deeper reflection, though, there are lots of factors from my childhood that contribute to my interest in and appreciation for local food.

Every summer my family headed for Puyallup to get a bucket of blueberries, which we would freeze and enjoy all winter. We ate blueberries in everything: pancakes, muffins, fruit salads, Jello (my mom has an inexplicable fetish, but no aptitude, for Jello molds), and on a rare occasion one of my favorites: blueberries and dumplings.

One summer we went to my folks' favorite blueberry farm only to discover that the farmer had sold out. The decades-old bushes had been razed and in their place was a housing development.

Other childhood memories of local food include watching my grandpa fuss over his tomatoes, going with my parents to purchase whole salmon from friends who had caught it, clam-digging (and horrible sunburns), visiting pumpkin patches, picking berries with friends in vacant lots, and the smell of skunks as we headed to Duris Farm for cucumbers. My nostrils still twitch in memory of dead skunks any time I head through Puyallup.

According to my grandma, her mother kept chickens no matter where she lived, and held them in the same regard I do.

When I was an exchange student living in France, I fell in love with the street markets. Whenever my schedule allowed, I loved to wander the stalls, fingering the produce, smelling the flowers and cheeses, watching the shoppers, dickering with vendors, and planning ways to prepare my bounty.

I'm not a great gardener. But I keep trying, I keep experimenting, and I keep growing.

This morning I inspected my pea patch and am pleased to see them just starting to break through the soil. My raspberries, which the next-door landlord ruined last summer, are showing proof of recovery. The hens have laid 3 eggs thus far, and I bet there will be more later. Yesterday's rains watered my new strawberry and asparagus deeply.

From blueberries to salmon, clams to tomatoes, I guess I've known all along where I got my roots.

Where does your passion for local food come from?


  1. I have a lot of similar memories growing up. Blackberry picking (and fighting chiggers), neighbors bringing zuchini, tomatoes & watermelons from their gardens. Fresh cantalope and corn, too. Yummy! Raising chickens back then was different; they were not pets.
    But my passion for being a locavore is because it ties me in to my community. There are 3 local beekeepers that have tables at our farmers market, and they know I will buy at least one jar from each of them each season to help with my allergies. I love hearing about their bees and how things are going! I watch one vendor's garden grow during the spring and I'm grateful to see it each year because he's battled prostate cancer. So winter plowing and spring plantings are signs to me that all is well for him and his family. For me, the local farmers market is as much social as nutritious.
    And the farmers market is good for me, too, in subtle ways. I've learned that if you want blackberries and they have blackberries buy them NOW. They may not be there the next week. And process those berries NOW for the same reasons. You can't procrastinate with fresh produce. When it's corn time you process corn until you ache, so that you can enjoy it all winter long. I plan better now, and procrastinate less, due to the farmers market.
    I grow mostly herbs, copious amounts of garlic & paste tomatoes, and some onions. Asparagus & strawberries, spring peas and greens of all types. I'll grow some zuchini & yellow crook-neck squash. But I don't worry about having a big garden because I have a nice-sized farmers market and they have more than I knew I needed.