This September is Eat Local Month – an event specific not only to Bellingham, but to all of Whatcom County. Sustainable Connections, the local nonprofit that orchestrates Eat Local Month, works with farmers, restaurateurs, food businesses and fishermen to help bring all together to honor and celebrate the amazing food Whatcom County has to offer.
Eat Local Month will be broken into four separate weeks, with each focusing on a different part of our local food scene: farm week, market week, seafood week and restaurant week. Each week will have its own unique events and different ways to get involved, like the Whatcom Food Fest (Sept 8-10) that includes the two-day Whatcom County Farm Tour, a spirits and bites tasting, Farm Tour brunch, beer and food pairing, a fried chicken picnic and more. Market Director of the Bellingham Farmers Market, Caprice Teske, says the market will not only participate in the market week, but will be involved in all aspects of Eat Local Month.
The Bellingham Farmers Market will have their Demo Days booth on Saturday, September 9 during the first day of the Whatcom Farm Tour. During Market Week (Sept. 16) Chefs Justin Hawkinson of Crave Catering and Andrew Clarke of Acme Farms + Kitchen will host their Chef in the Market booth, complete with recipes and samples. And Restaurant Week (Sept 24-30) will find Bellingham Farmers Market highlighting their prepared food vendors who utilize local ingredients in their products. Special local market meals will be available during restaurant week and the Bellingham Farmers Market will work closely with their vendors to make sure it is an Eat Local Month to remember.
“From a market perspective, our mission is to support local agriculture,” Teske says. “We want local food to play a vital role in people’s lives. It takes cooperation to make local agriculture work.”
Teske says they have been working with their prepared food vendors to encourage them to use local products whenever possible and that their vendors are doing a stellar job.
Cooperation is not new to the vendors at the Bellingham Farmers Market. Many of them use each other’s products in order to craft their various foodstuffs. Both collaboration and cooperation are very apparent among the different food producers.
Sophie Williams of Raven Breads says the reason she is in business is to make the best product she can, add substantially to her community and cause as little harm as she can to both people and the environment. “Using local [and regional] ingredients from farmers and producers I know is the only way I can fulfill all three of these objectives,” Williams says.
In addition to using ingredients from local farmers and producers herself, other vendors and producers also use the bread Williams makes in their food. Cafe Vavilov uses whole grain bread from Raven Breads in their Vegan Farmers dish. The cafe, run by Erica Budzynski incorporates a slew of locally sourced and grown ingredients in their meals, and has a booth set up at the farmers market on Saturdays, during which they use enamel plates to serve food and cut down on waste.
Williams doesn’t just cooperate with fellow humans though, she also cooperates with nature when she bakes her bread. In the summer, she forages blackberries for her Danishes and apples for her Bavarian rye bread.
Russ Kendall of Gusto Wood Fired Pizza recognizes Bellingham and the greater Whatcom County area as one of the best food-centered communities in the country. He says in general it just makes sense to support local business and help each other, and Whatcom County is one of the best places to do so. “We can get virtually everything you need from the 50 miles around us,” he says. “Seafood, berries, livestock, flour – you name it and we can get it. Why would I want to buy food from a plant in Chicago when I can support local business and jobs right here?”
Gusto Wood Fired Pizza gets produce from Terra Verde and Cloud Mountain Farms, flour from Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill and cheese from Ferndale Farmstead as well as sourcing from many other local food producers.
Co-Owner and Co-Founder of Evolve Truffles Shannon Fox says using and sourcing local ingredients has been their motto from the very beginning. Evolve gets almost all of their ingredients from Whatcom and Skagit County. “Obviously we can’t get our cacao from here, but it is crucial to use what’s around you,” she says. “We have heavily played a part in this grassroots food movement in Bellingham and the greater surrounding area.”
With their vendors on board, Eat Local Month will be able to bring the best locally-sourced meals to customers that visit the Bellingham Farmers Market during the month of September. Eat Local Month is sure to educate and inform the public on why it truly is important to buy, sell and most importantly, eat local. For more details and tickets for the Whatcom Food Fest, visit www.eatlocalfirst.org