Food

Eat Local Month

It’s what’s for dinner

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When I looked out my kitchen window the other day and saw an intrepid squirrel hanging upside down from my one and only sunflower plant—where it was busy cramming seeds in its mouth—I was tempted to run outside with a broom and scare it off. Then I realized it was Eat Local Month, and the hungry critter was only following the rules.

I’m not joking. In Whatcom County, even the animals can get in on the action. As a further example, the seeds the squirrel couldn’t fit in its ever-expanding cheeks fell to the ground, where my flock of egg-laying hens quickly made them disappear. Nothing went to waste, and everybody was happy.

If you, too, would like to see such circle-of-life moments, you need look no further than the aforementioned Eat Local Month. Planned and executed each year by the folks at Sustainable Connections, the month-long food and harvest celebration is a veritable smorgasbord of edible—and educational—action.

Wild foraging trips, a farmstead supper, an Eat Local cooking class and an Incognito dinner at Ciao Thyme, and an organic pesto-making class at the Bagelry have already occurred, but there’s so much more to come.

I’m not going to be able to elaborate excessively on every event that remains, but I’ll offer up a few of the highlights, and then let you decide if you want to investigate further.

One of the big Kahunas, of course, is the 6th annual Whatcom County Farm Tour, which takes place Sat., Sept. 14 at eight area farms, two wineries and, per usual, the Bellingham Farmers Market. While it makes sense to start or end your tour at the Depot Market Square—where you can see the fruits of the labors of many, many farmers in one place—what you do before and after is entirely up to you.

Among the options: Check out the living laboratory at Everson’s Cloud Mountain Farm Center, find out more about organically grown fungi at Cascadia Mushrooms, sip sustainable wine from Dakota Creek Winery and homegrown spirits and cider at BelleWood Acres, and head to Lynden for farm tours and pulled pork sandwiches (and other gustatory goodies) at Farmer Ben’s. There will also be wine and chocolate tastings at Blaine’s Dakota Creek Winery, berries and flowers at Bellingham Country Gardens, furry beasts to pet at the Camelot Alpaca Ranch, and more.

Organizers point out the self-guided tour is free, but encourage participants to bring cash for farm products. Other tips include bringing a cooler to keep purchased foods fresh throughout the day, and considering paying $25 for a Farm Tour VIP pass, which will net them a variety of coupons and freebies from each of the stops.

That same day, a Community Garden Tour will see bicyclists meeting at the Bellingham Farmers Market and traveling to a variety of urban gardens, where they’ll find out more about the abundance of produce and greenery in gardens around town, and sample the goods. Participants can choose from a “short and sweet” ride (three gardens, under five miles), or a “scenic” outing (six gardens, 10 miles).

Come Sun., Sept. 15, a Threshing Party and Non-GMO Corn Project Harvest will make a visit to Lynden a necessity. On Thurs., Sept. 19, food writer and activist Nancy Ging will helm a “Locavore 101” course at the Cordata Community Food Co-op for anyone who wonders what the word really means—and how to go about taking it seriously.

The following weekend will be a full one. To further understand what it takes to get an egg to the kitchen table—or to get milk from a goat, make your own bread, build a worm bin, garden in the winter, cook wild edibles or harvest plants for medicinal purposes—the second annual Whatcom Skillshare Faire will be taking place Sept. 21-22 at Ferndale’s Hovander Homestead Park.

Sept. 22 will also bring the 8th annual Bite of Bellingham to the Depot Market Square—an event that celebrates the wealth of good places to eat in our area, and highlights those who work hard to bring them to us.

Near the end of Eat Local Month, Sept. 26 will see school districts throughout Whatcom County celebrating Taste Washington Day by cooking up fresh vittles harvested in our foodshed and feeding them to the kids at lunchtime. A Common Threads fundraising dinner with local farmers also happens that night at Ciao Thyme.

Finally, the 11th annual Whatcom Harvest Dinner wraps up the month Sept. 29 at BelleWood Acres. This event—which features food procured from school and community gardens as well as from local fishermen and farmers—sells out every year, so you’ll want to get tickets now and mark the event on your calendar.

Of course, eating local doesn’t just have to happen during September. Hopefully, the events listed here will encourage people—and the occasional squirrel—to consider more carefully where their food comes from, and act accordingly.

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