I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to combine my three passions into one gig over the last eight years. I managed to find a job in which I got to help develop our local food system while at the same time writing about it and photographing it. What a blessing! I have been working with farmers markets since 1991, and I have served on the board of Seattle Chefs Collaborative since 1999. I also served as executive director of Washington State Farmers Market Association from 1999-2005, and in 2006, I co-authored the Washington State Farmers Market Manual for Washington State University. I have loved all this work, and I am proud of all we’ve accomplish here, leading the nation in local food. So even though I am leaving my farmers market job after today, I will still be around.
For this last official regular blog post for your Ballard Farmers Market, I’d like to revisit with you some of my favorite photos from over the years. Like the one above, taken at Wallingford Farmers Market last summer. This naturally-occuring heart-shaped tomato was grown by Poulsbo’s Around The Table Farm. Yet one more reason to love vine-ripened, farm-fresh tomatoes over homogenous, boring tomatoes from the Big Box stores, if you really needed another reason.
While the previous photo was copied all over the intertubes, it is this photo that actually circled the globe. Yes, this is my single-most plagerized photo ever, and I say that with pride (and a little bit of annoyance — please don’t republish photos without permission or giving credit!). I took this photo of baby rainbow carrots that look like an exploding firework not long before Independence Day in 2012. These carrots were grown by Gaia’s Harmony Farm in Snohomish. I published this photo across all of our markets’ blogs and Facebook pages for the 4th that year, and it just spread across the interwebs from there. Imagine how far it would have travelled had a vision of the Virgin Mother be visible in it?
I’ve taken a lot of nice photos of Sea Breeze Farm’s meats over the years, but I’ve always liked this one of their sausages best. The sausages are all uniform in size and stacked perfectly, highlighted by the wooden butcher block below them. But what sets them off is that they are three such distinctly different colors. Kinda makes you want some right now, doesn’t it? And that is what makes this photo so special.
Rutabagas are one of my favorite vegetables. I must owe that to my Irish heritage. My family eats them every Thanksgiving. Indeed, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them. Then my Aunt Joyce taught me to add them to the corned beef pot on St. Paddy’s Day. (You need to add them 15-30 minutes before your potatoes, as they’re much denser.) They absorb all the flavors of the spices and meat. Nummers. I’ve also always found rutabagas to be quite beautiful, with their deep yellows and purples. And of all my lovely photos of rutabagas — indeed, of all the thousands of images I’ve taken of markets over the years — this one of rutabagas from Boistfort Valley Farm, spread out randomly in a wooden farm box, is one of my absolute favorites.
This wonderful photo of symmetrically-arranged cabbages in a wooden box was taken back in 2010. They are from one of the gorgeous displays that Big Dave used to erect for Full Circle Farm at Wallingford Farmers Market. The image quality suffers a bit from my old camera’s inferior technology, but the image is still nice, don’t you think?
One Leaf Farm is known for growing lots of deliciously bitter members of the chicory family. They are quite beautiful, too, and in 2012, I managed to capture this image of escarole, treviso radicchio and Palla Rosa radicchio here at your Ballard Farmers Market. This image is now used on One Leaf’s own website, which pleases me every time I visit it.
Another of the most stunning vegetables — one that magically grows in perfect fractals — is this romanesco, a member of the cauliflower family. And my favorite photo is of this romanesco from Full Circle Farm at Madrona Farmers Market back in 2011. This photos has served as the cover photo for Madrona’s Facebook page ever since.
But for my money, the most beautiful vegetable of all is this Chinese spinach. With its purple and green leaves, it is just flat-out stunning. Only two farms bring it to your Ballard Farmers Market each summer: Mee Garden and Children’s Garden. This image is of some from Children’s Garden from 2011. And in fact, before I published this photo and waxed poetic about the virtues of this gorgeous leafy green, these two farms were hard-pressed to sell any of it. Now, they can’t harvest enough of it. And for that, I love you, good people of Ballard Farmers Market! You are willing to be adventurous in the name of eating local!
Most people probably don’t even think about what broccoli looks like growing in the field. This is what it looks like! That’s the developing floret right there in the center surrounded by all those lovely, and edible, mind you, leaves. That’s why I’ve always loved this photo from Growing Washington in Everson — it surprises people. No, milk doesn’t just magically come in a carton, and yes, broccoli does have leaves!
Winter squash is also very photogenic. And this photo of delicata and carnival squash from Summer Run Farm taken just this past fall happens to be my favorite. The colors are simply explosive, aren’t they? No wonder so many restaurants will use their squash as decorations around the dining room for weeks before cooking them!
Did you know that cauliflower comes in so many colors? Just it this photo you’ll see purple, yellow, green, white and green romanesco from Growing Things Farm. Seriously, aren’t farmers markets so much more fun in every way than a boring Big Box store, where you’ll only get white cauliflower, and it won’t be remotely as sweet as this stuff is?
Finally… and this is the big finally… in honor of Ballard’s Scandinavian roots, and because this photos has actually been republished in national print magazines, let’s finish off my celebration of my favorite product photos, and my role as Blog Master, with these Viking purple potatoes from Olsen Farms. Their magnificent purple skin belies snow white flesh that makes them a perfect masher.
Thank you for joining me week in and week out for all these years, as I have brought you the news of the day as to what’s fresh now at your Ballard Farmers Market, with a sprinkling of snark and commentary. If at times my tone has seemed revolutionary, that is because the revolution starts here, on your fork. Know that I won’t be too far away, and that you’ll likely still see me around the Market on Sundays. Hopefully, I’ll contribute the odd guest post in the future. And now that I have the time, I’ll be whipping my personal blogs into shape with tales of food and adventure from near and far. You can find my blogs via mayoroffoodtown.com, though give me a couple of weeks to spit-polish them a bit, as they’re a bit tarnished from years of neglect. (If you have need for a skilled writer, photographer or event organizer, contact me through that site.) And I won’t turn down hugs today, either. (Unless you’re sick. Just got over norovirus, and that stuff is just plain nasty.)