Sunday, August 22nd: The Finest Local, Healthy, Sustainably-Produced Meat, Seafood & Poultry

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Cans of albacore tuna from Fishing Vessel St. Jude. Copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Reason #34,872 why you should vote right now for your Ballard Farmers Market as America’s Favorite Farmers Market before the voting closes at midnight on August 31st: 11 different vendors selling meat, seafood and poultry they produce sustainably directly to you. You won’t get quality animal proteins like this anywhere else, unless you find it elsewhere from these very producers. But then, why would you do that? Why not give these good folks all the money, right? Cut out the middle man! And let’s start by saluting Fishing Vessel St. Jude and its superb Washington coastal albacore tuna. Did you know that albacore tuna spawn in the icy waters of the North Pacific? Yup. And St. Jude catches them as teenagers swimming south to tropical waters, which means the fish are still very low in mercury and very high in omega fatty acids, making this tuna, be it fresh loins, canned, smoked or jerkied, the best friggin’ tuna you’ve ever tasted, and tuna that ain’t gonna kill you, either.

Fresh ducks from Stokesberry Organic Poultry. Photo copyright 2010 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Stokesberry Sustainable Farm raises organic chicken, duck and beef, and even the occasional rabbit I hear. What they produce is so good that you will find in on the menus of many of the most celebrated restaurants in Seattle. I love that they actually cut up their chickens into parts so I can just get a couple of legs or a bag of giblets without having to get the whole bird, though I can get the whole bird if I want to. (In fact, I think I saw Jerry Stokesberry giving me the bird once. Perhaps I said something inappropriate, or cut him off in traffic.)

Rib steaks from Olsen Farms. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Olsen Farms may be known for its extraordinary selection of heirloom varieties of potatoes, but they also produce some amazing beef, lamb and pork, too. And besides steaks, roasts and chops, they offer sausage, salami, bacon, ham, smoked hocks, and even the odd dog chew. And I hear their animals sometimes get to eat some of their potatoes, too. The cool thing about that is, when you cook their bacon, you don’t need hash browns. But you should probably have some anyway, made from Olsen potatoes, of course.

David of Wilson Fish is despondent while Pete of Pete's Perfect Butter Toffee sobs over the fact that the fish is sold out at 11:30 a.m. on May 24, 2009. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

At Wilson Fish, they like to say, “If our fish was any fresher, it would be from the future.” In most cases, the salmon, halibut, rockfish and true cod you pickup from them at your Ballard Farmers Market was swimming the day before. These guys are catching this fish on the Washington coast, bringing it back to Olympia the same day, filleting and bagging it, and bringing it to you the next day, and mind you, they are doing this usually after another farmers market the previous day. If you haven’t tried their fish, you are really missing out on something special. Just don’t get here too late!

A beautiful pastured chicken from Growing Things Farm. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Years ago, I drove out to Growing Things Farm in Carnation to pickup one of their chickens for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. My family has not eaten a Thanksgiving turkey since. Honestly, it was the best chicken we’d ever tasted. Trust me, if you have never had a truly farm fresh, pastured chicken — if you are still eating chicken you buy at the Big Box Store, regardless of whether it is labeled “organic” or “free range” or whatever — you simply must try one. Once you do, you will never go back. Consider yourself warned!

Another beautiful case of fresh, local meat, straight from the farm, from Sea Breeze Farm. Photo copyright 2010 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Who doesn’t love standing in front of the refrigerator case at Sea Breeze Farm, thoroughly examining each of this week’s offerings of beef, pork, lamb, veal, chicken, duck, sausage, pate, stock, bacon, and on and on. It is magnificent, is it not? It is also incredible. The meat is extraordinary. And the sausages are nothing short of masterful. (And, I have discovered, they are also addictive.)

Lard from Samish Bay. Photo copyright 2010 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Samish Bay is best know for its cheeses, which, by the way, you must stop by and try. But they also raise great grass-finished beef and pastured pork. And hey, if you are going to use lard in your recipes, don’t you really want to know where it comes from? I mean, the stuff in those cans at the Big Box Store… do you really trust it? And besides, the fat of pastured pigs ain’t gonna kill you quite so quickly, and it’ll make your pies taste better, too.

Fresh whole keta salmon from Loki Fish. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Pete Knutsen, owner of Loki Fish, is one of the great rabble-rousing heroes of local fishers here in Seattle, battling the brain trust at the Port of Seattle for many years to protect our beloved Fishermen’s Terminal as something that is for working fishers, and not for the yachts of rich tourists and Microsoft millionaires (not that there’s anything wrong with rich tourists and Microsoft millionaires, but they can park their @#$%@#$!!!ing yachts in Shilshole Bay or on Lake Union, not at Fishermen’s Terminal, for the love of Mike!), and he has suffered the Port’s retribution for it. But without Pete, I am not sure we would still have Fishermen’s Terminal at all. So lift a pint to Pete tonight, and pickup for dinner some of the amazing salmon he and his family bring to your Ballard Farmers Market every week. They catch five different species of salmon in Alaska and Washington waters, and they handle it with tremendous care. Besides fresh and smoked salmon, they offer salmon lox, jerky, patties, sausage, roe, canned salmon and a bunch of other salmon goodness.

A Mother's Day 2009 visit to Ballard Farmers Market from the entire family Vojkovich of Skagit River Ranch. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Writer Michael Pollan has made farmer Joel Salatin, who farms in Virginia, into this folk hero who as hit the speaking circuit now himself. And sure, Salatin deserves it, I suppose. But if I want to hear someone wax poetic, and scientific for that matter, about farming and animal husbandry, I would just as soon spend an afternoon with Farmer George (a.k.a., George Vojkovich) of Skagit River Ranch. Honestly, I have never met anyone more chock full of knowledge about raising livestock sustainably than George. Indeed, I spent a day with George on the ranch, and I learned all about how he cares for his animals to an almost obsessive degree, from caring for the soil out of which their forage grows, to tending that forage, to whistling and calling the herd from one pasture to the next all by himself — not even with a dog. I even got to see the mobile slaughter unit in action on the farm, a system of dispatching the animals right on the farm in a lower-stress environment that the USDA inspector onsite told me was the most humane method he has ever seen. So if you want healthy, guilt-free meat and poultry from animals that live happy lives, visit the Vojkovichs today at your Ballard Farmers Market for chicken, beef, pork, sausage, ham, bacon, and more.

A crown of goat from Quilceda Farm. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Goat is the most commonly eaten meat on earth. It is just we Gringos that don’t eat it. Gee, could it be because we are uptight Americans? I mean, even the French and British eat goat. It is lean with a flavor a touch milder than lamb. I love the stuff. Quilceda Farms in Marysville produces delicious goat meat. They offer it in steaks, chops, roasts, shanks, sausages and more, and they conveniently provide a huge collection of recipes you can choose from to help break you in.

Shucked oysters from Taylor Shellfish make it easy to add fresh, local oysters to any recipe. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Oyster Bill Whitbeck of Taylor Shellfish is one of truly large personalities at your Ballard Farmers Market — a genuine legend in his own time. He has played a key role in connecting us all to the wonders of Washington shellfish over many years of hard work. Each week, he brings to Market some of the best oysters, clams, mussels and geoduck one can expect to find anywhere on earth, and yet it comes from right here!

Indeed, it is somewhat of an embarrassment of riches we enjoy at our beloved Ballard Farmers Markets. Think about it. How often do you hear some tourist or visiting relative or friend wandering through the Market commenting that they don’t have markets like this in their state. Okay, maybe you haven’t been to farmers markets in other states, so you think this is the way it is everywhere. Heck, it is isn’t even this way at other markets in this city, let alone other states! 11 different vendors selling their meat, seafood and poultry — 12 in the winter, when we are joined by Cape Cleare Fishery. And then there’s the six cheese makers, two grain growers, the honey, the bakeries, the foragers, the flowers, the cider and wine makers and all that incredible produce. Not to mention all the camera crews from around the world we have to negotiate around. Honestly, are you telling me you still haven’t voted for Ballard Farmers Market as America’s Favorite Farmers Market? Please, vote now. We’ve only got nine more days!

And remember, there is plenty more for you to find today at your Ballard Farmers Market. But before you click on the What’s Fresh Now! pages to see what all else is in season right now, please do take a moment to vote for Ballard Farmers Market in American Farmland Trust’s America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest. And thank you!

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