A number of years ago, while visiting relatives in a small town in Kansas, I had to scramble to find menu items that didn’t include ground beef, Doritos or French fries.
I was a vegetarian at the time, and it wasn’t easy to source fresh vegetables, either at the eateries we visited or at area grocery stores. I had similar issues a year later while trying to find the necessary ingredients to make meat-free lasagna while visiting my dad in the hollers of Kentucky.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been back to either of these states, but my guess is that, food-wise, things in those rural hinterlands haven’t improved much over time.
Luckily, I don’t live in those places. Instead, I reside in a region where people like to know where their meals come from, and make many efforts to support those who are providing the long list of edible goods—whether it’s fresh milk, fruit and vegetables plucked straight from the vine (or branch), grass-fed beef and pork, or heirloom apples.
As part of Sustainable Connections’ ongoing efforts to help share the local love, a number of events will highlight this year’s Eat Local campaign, which happens through September throughout Whatcom County.
In Bellingham and beyond, a number of restaurants and grocery stores that operate by the farm-to-table ethos all year long will have a variety of menu items available that feature the best of the bounty of the season. Avenue Bread, Brandywine Kitchen, Ciao Thyme, Chuckanut Brewery, La Conner’s Nell Thorn, Everson’s Good to Go Meat Pies, Temple Bar, Old Town Café, the two Community Food Co-ops, The Table, and others will open their doors to the masses, and an Eat Local Month passport will enable those who visit to earn points toward a variety of prizes.
If patronizing the aforementioned establishments isn’t quite close enough to the source for you, schedule time Sat., Sept. 8 for the 5th annual Whatcom County Farm Tour.
“We love seeing new faces, meeting our neighbors and being able to show folks what we do—raise animals in a responsible and healthy way,” Farmer Ben’s Jessica Elenbaas says. As one of the 11 stops on the tour, the Lynden-based farm features 100 percent grass-fed beef and Berkshire pork. Also on the roster at Farmer Ben’s will be composting demonstrations and kid’s show cows, horses and cats. (Say hello to the resident Great Pyrenees, Lars, while you’re at it.)
Other participants on the tour include the Outer County Nut Farm (hazelnuts with a view), Silver Springs Creamery (award-winning cheeses, yogurts and ice creams), Cloud Mountain Farm Center (rare and heirloom fruits and veggies), Bellingham Farmers Market (local produce en masse), Bellingham Country Gardens, Edelweiss Dairy, Vartanyan Estate Winery, Bellewood Acres and Distilling, Back in Thyme, and the Nooksack Delta Ranch. Those visiting are advised to bring coolers, with ice, in order to keep their gustatory goods fresh.
To round out the month of activities, one of the farms on the tour, BelleWood Acres, will host the 10th annual Whatcom Harvest Dinner—which is just what it sounds like. Those who buy tickets to the Sept. 23 event will show up to celebrate the abundance of our regional foodshed, and get full doing so.
A change this year is that educational goods will be highlighted alongside those of more established purveyors. Whatcom Farm-to-School efforts will be recognized, and much of the food will be sourced from school gardens, urban community gardens and beginning farmers from throughout the county.
“We want to see the Whatcom Harvest Dinner grow, reach wider, and be more accessible,” Fourth Corner Slow Food president Lisa Dailey says. “We are excited to focus this year around Farm to School efforts to make the dinner a fun, educational and family-friendly event.”
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