Regional Foods

Last week Anna and Steffi and I made a long day trip to Skagit to find regional products for our store, following the leads provided by the Puget Sound Food Network.

First we bought pickles and sauerkraut from Pleasant Valley Farms in LaConner. This is a huge pickling operation with acres of big vats and a pickle odor in the air. The good thing is that the cucumbers and cabbages are right out there in the field. Other major pickle factories (Steinfield, Farman, and Nalley, plus the little guys they’ve gobbled up) source their cucumbers from India, for heaven’s sake!) There are two articles about the Skagit pickle phenomenon on the windowsill in the co-op.

Then we went looking for meat–specifically sausages and bacon. We stopped at Del Fox and found only industrial meat, so we went farther south and bought some “natural” product from Silvana Meats, near Arlington: sausages, ham hocks, and bacon. It’s very yummy and it flew out of the store. I have reservations about “natural” practices, because in spite of eschewing hormones and fertilizers and the like, they nevertheless finish the animals for 60 to 90 days in confinement–feed lots or CAFO facilities in eastern Washington or Oregon–thereby converting the “good” fat Omega 3 profile to the bad fat profile. I ate it and liked it, but I won’t want it again. Most people would find all natural meats satisfactory, however. Should we get more?

We stopped by Hidden Meadow Ranch outside of Mt. Vernon and inquired about obtaining pork and poultry in the future. We liked Laura’s operation and her care of the animals which she raises very responsibly.

Next we stopped to get some sparkling juices in Mt. Vernon, “Skagit Fresh” made from apples and berries from three nearby farms.

After that we fetched honey for a good price from Bruce Bower, who lives east of Mt. Vernon and has 670 hives scattered about the county. He’s on his way now to pack his bees off to California to pollinate the almond orchards. I worry that the bees might be badly stressed from travel and stressed worse by encountering bees from China, Turkey, Peru, etc., where they could be exposed to pathogens. But it’s very good honey, “mystery honey”, Bruce told me, because the bees forage on such things as blackberry, thistle, snowberry, knotweed, honeydew from fir trees.

We made a quick trip out east of Sedro Woolley to Skagit River Ranch, which was the highlight of our adventure. What a wonderful farm! Chickens loose everywhere, a neighbor pig who came in the yard to greet us, enthusiastic biodynamic,
Polyface style, homeopathic, nutrition-centered farmers with outstanding product. Although they had piles of fantastic eggs, we were told there was no way they could ever sell us any; I think they’re all headed for the various farmers markets in the region. But we got a small amount of their pork products which are outstanding and think we should either join the Anacortes buying club or form one of our own if we can figure out the transportation. George and Eiko do a wonderful job on their meat.

Finally we quickly stopped at Golden Glen Creamery to pick up ten dozen eggs. We don’t approve of the Wilcox eggs from UNFI, which, though produced in Roy, Washington, and called “organic”, come from a flock of 800,000 hens in big factory warehouses. These Golden Glen hens are a small flock that live in a chicken tractor and play all day outdoors pecking in the grass; they lay pretty eggs–old fashioned farm eggs. More are coming this Thursday and Golden Glen will deliver them to the ferry terminal and our wonderful Anna’s willing to take the round trip on the ferry to bring them to the co-op.

It was a fun trip. I tell you all these things because I need feedback on these matters! What do you want us to bring to our store?

Eleanor