Bellingham Farmers Market Opening Day
As I walked toward the Bellingham Farmers Market last Saturday on opening day, the background music started to swell. Was this the climactic scene in my own in-my-head local foods movie? It felt like it, but then I caught sight of the band playing gypsy music and snapped back to reality. The music was real, lively, and fun, and a big circle of people had gathered in the middle of Railroad St. to listen. One wiggly, loose-limbed fellow was displaying his dance moves, and kids were watching with rapt (and painted) faces. Besides that, the sun was out! The Market was definitely off to a running start!
One block of Railroad St. had been blocked off for the celebration. In addition to the music, the antique tractor display was attracting lots of kids. The tractors were brought by Puget Sound Antique Tractor & Machinery Association. The kids were thrilled to be allowed to climb and play all over the machinery.
I decided to start with a walk around all the farm stands to see what kinds of ingredients were available this early in the year. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The diversity was amazing. Here are some of the highlights:
Most of the farms had vegetables which sometimes grow or store throughout the winter if the weather is mild enough. Kale, brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, collard greens and leeks had apparently wintered well. As the days are getting longer, kale is starting to bolt (produce flowers and seeds) so several farms were offering delicious kale raab, the top stalks with sweet unopened flower buds. It looks similar to broccoli raab, but tastes sweeter and less bitter.
At Terra Verde (Everson), the lovely, large shallots were the first thing to attract my attention. K&M Red River Farm (Ferndale) had beets the size of my fist (or larger). Broadleaf Farm (Everson) had the first garlic greens of the day (garlic stems). Nooksack 9 (Everson) had fresh sorrel, a sour-tasting herb which makes a good flavor substitute in some recipes for lemon juice. Spring Frog Farm at Holistic Homestead (Everson) featured colorful rainbow carrots and a tender variety of kale (not as tough and chewy as other varieties). Alm Hill Gardens (Everson) had lovely bunches of fresh flowers alongside their vegetable selections.
Besides the familiar shiitake, lions mane, and oyster mushrooms, Cascadia Mushrooms (Bellingham) was offering a mushroom blend for making a tonic tea to support the health of your immune system. Sumas River Farm (Sumas) had some wildcrafted fresh nettles for another kind of nutritious spring tonic food.
Rabbit Field Farm (Everson) wins my unofficial diversity prize. Roslyn had sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), onions, chives, pea shoots, shallots, kale raab, kale greens, collard greens, several kinds of potatoes, tatsoi, radishes, sunflower sprouts, spinach, mixed salad greens, fresh sage and thyme, turnips, garlic greens, leeks, green onions, arugula, and her wonderful dried cayenne peppers. I probably missed some, but by then I was getting hungry. I went around to the vendors once again, this time to purchase my favorites from what I’d seen.
While I was making the circuit, I stopped by the Red Barn Lavender Farm (Ferndale) booth to renew my egg CSA, talk about their new chickens, and to visit with Marvin and Lynn about home gardening. I also said hello to fellow Lummi Islander Debbie Lowery at the Hooplah booth. I always love to feast my eyes on her colorful hula hoops, a new fitness craze, though Debbie has been making and selling them for years. The one-of-a kind bags, purses and pouches she designs and makes are perennial favorites with market visitors.
Finally, I made sure to pick up the new free 2012 Whatcom Farm and Food Finder (WFFF) just published by Sustainable Connections. The WFFF has information about farms, restaurants, and other local food producers in Whatcom County. Looking for some special farm events for the family to enjoy this summer? Check the WFFF. Curious about which farms practice various sustainable farming practices? Again, the WFFF is a key resource. (It’s now available online.)
If you’re not familiar with the work done by Sustainable Connections’ Food and Farming project, I’d strongly encourage you to visit their website and see what they’re doing. They are an essential part of the support offered to small family farmers in Whatcom County.
Good food, sunshine, and reconnecting with friends and acquaintances–a perfect day!
Here’s a recipe made from based on ingredients purchased at the Market:
- Fried Cabbage With Noodles