One might think January is anything but an exciting month here at your Ballard Farmers Market. One would be wrong! As a year-round market, we shine this time of year, with dozens of world-class food producers lining historical Ballard Avenue while almost every other market in the state is in its winter slumber. Plus, we are actually adding new vendors this time of year. This week, please welcome our newest: Twin Oaks Creamery! Based in Chehalis, Twin Oaks was nearly wiped off the face of the earth by the historic flood of 2007. But they have been working hard to rebuild their dairy farm business since that horrific event, they now have healthy goat and cow herds for milking and a modern cheese-making facility, and they have set their sites on farmers markets for their future. To that end, they arrive today with pasteurized goat and cow milk and cheese. And in the coming weeks and months, they will continue to expand their offerings to include aged raw milk cheeses, yogurt and more! And we couldn’t be more thrilled! While we have a reliable supply of raw milk from Sea Breeze Farm, we’ve been without pasteurized milk, or any goat milk, since the departure of Silver Springs Creamery in late summer. So come celebrate the return of milk to your Ballard Farmers Market, and get to know your local dairy farmer!
2012 was a rough year for beekeeper Roy Nettlebeck of Tahuya River Apiaries. Seemingly insulated for many years from the worldwide collapse of bee populations, his hives suffered last year both from high mortality rates as well as historic snows in the Olympic Mountains, and we have suffered Roy’s absence from your Ballard Farmers Market for the entire 2012 season. His bees, which work the steep eastern slopes of the Olympics, pollinating wildflowers and making honey from their nectar, did process a small amount of wildflower honey in 2012, however, and Roy is in the Market today with what he’s got. Don’t expect these big jars, though. He only has small jars of his honey today, as he wants to spread it around to as many people as possible. Stop by and pick up some of this Olympic gold, and enjoy a natural bit of the sweet life!
Jerry Stokesberry — namesake of Stokesberry Sustainable Farm — can’t help but smile about his delicious chickens, and neither will you. These birds are unlike any chicken you’ve ever had from a Big Box store. Indeed, once you’ve had one of these, you won’t even recognize what sold in the Big Box stores as chicken anymore. The Stokesberrys sell their chickens fresh and frozen, though both sell out quickly each week. And occasionally, they offer up stewing hens, too. I made the most amazing chicken soup with one of these recently. I ate it every night for a week!
Another of our new farm additions to your Ballard Farmers Market this winter is Sno-Valley Mushrooms. They are cultivating shiitake, lion’s mane and blue oyster mushrooms in their state-of-the-art facility in Duvall. Back in mid-December, our own Gil Youenes and I got to tour their farm, learning a lot about mushroom growing in the process. Here, Sno-Valley’s Will Lockmiller explains to Gil about how their inoculated straw blocks are made, and how they will soon produce many beautiful shiitakes.
It may be January, but it’s peak season at Colinwood Farms in Port Townsend. See, they’ve learned to magnify the natural climatic advantage they enjoy being located in Washington’s Banana Belt, in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, and the incredibly rich, fertile soil on their farm, with a series of large greenhouses that help them grow salad greens, and other temperature-sensitive deliciousness, all winter long. And I just love this photo I captured of the farm’s Jessie Hopkins on their antique potato planter a few years back.
I know I am thin on photos of delicious food this week, but I decided it was as good a week as any to focus instead on our delicious vendors, like Kia Armstrong from Nash’s Organic Produce, and Wynne Weinreb from Jerzy Boyz — two more farms that rock it at your Ballard Farmers Market all winter long. Sure, Nash’s has plenty of Brussels sprouts, kale, rutabagas and cabbages this time of year, and Jerzy Boyz is rich with amazing, heirloom apples and pears, but when it comes right down to it, what truly makes our little farmers market wealthy is our wonderful sense of family, as can be seen on the faces of these two taking a break together. And don’t you come here for this, as well? I mean, yes, you will not find any better food anywhere — certainly not at the Big Box stores — but you also get a good dose of community here. You meet the people who produce the food that nourishes your body and fills your soul, and you meet your neighbors. Here is one place where you are not treated like a number — like a “consumer”. Here, we are people. Enjoy it. And then take that feeling with you throughout the rest of your week.
Clayton Burrows of Alm Hill Gardens (a.k.a., Growing Washington) has never been one known to mind his manners and keep his yap shut. Like so many of the amazing farmers with whom we are blessed here at your Ballard Farmers Market, he not only grows great food for us, but he is a tireless activist to help make our food system, our communities and our world better for all of us. So needless to say (though by now, you’ve figured out I’m gonna say it anyway), when U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell visited your Ballard Farmers Market this past summer, Clayton availed himself of the opportunity to do a little educating and community building with her — and those Alm Hill berries she’s enjoying didn’t hurt a bit, either. Alm Hill is another one of our anchor, year-round farms here at your Ballard Farmers Market, and right now, they’ve actually got fresh-cut tulips already, as well as some great farm-fresh eggs, too.
Of course, not all of our Market characters are farmers, but what would be the point of eating anyway, if we didn’t have music to fill our souls, too? Week in and week out, we are blessed with an incredibly talented pool of buskers who perform for us at your Ballard Farmers Market — folks like world-renowned folk singer Jim Page, who can be found most Sundays, when he’s not touring, playing his powerful music for us right here. We don’t pay any of these performers. That’s up to you. If you like them, or even if you just appreciate them for doing what they do, toss a little cash into their instrument case, hat or jar, and maybe purchase a CD, a poem, a painting or a balloon animal. Supporting your local street performers adds just as much to the beautiful, vibrant community of Ballard we call home as supporting your local farmers, fishers, ranchers, food artisans and artists at your Ballard Farmers Market, and all the locally-owned shops, bars, eateries and other businesses that line historic Ballard Avenue. And buying a CD directly from a musician, instead of at a store, means that musician gets almost all of the purchase price, inside of mere pennies per unit.
Please remember bring your own bags every Sunday, as Seattle’s single-use plastic bag ban is now in effect. Also, please take note of our new green composting and blue recycling waste receptacles throughout your Ballard Farmers Market, and please make an effort to use them correctly. Each container has what’s okay to put in it pictured right on the lid. Please do not put the wrong materials in, because that drives up the cost of recycling and composting, and it can result in the entire container being sent instead to a landfill. Your understanding and cooperation are appreciated.
There is plenty more local deliciousness waiting for you today at your Ballard Farmers Market. Just check What’s Fresh Now! for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now.