It is Spring (though for another day or two it feels like Fall)! It’s almost Summer! (Which is somewhat unimaginable, today.) For weeks, local farmers have been providing early harvests though farm stands, farmers markets, CSAs, however they can. Neighbors might also be asking friends, neighbors, anyone to take surplus whatever. Free, fresh asparagus? Why, yes, thank you. This Memorial Day weekend will be a good opportunity to do more than buy. It is Whidbey Island Grown Weekend, a showcase for local growers, something appreciated by the community, foodies, local chefs, and generally people who know that eating isn’t just about calories and salt. Yes, it is possible, food does not have to come wrapped in plastic with a barcode stamped on the bottom.
It is said frequently, Island County is a rural county. In some ways that isn’t just a description but an actual declaration that affects regulations, funding, and other official stuff. The label of ‘rural county’ can almost be reduced to a marketing line, a description of ambiance, and visual backdrops. It looks good in and on a tourism brochure.
Whidbey is rural. Sure there is a city (named after a tree, a plant), and there are certainly many things for tourists to do (or destinations dedicated to doing nothing but relaxing), and the commutes to off-island jobs are obvious any weekday morning or evening (just visit the bridge or the ferries to see the parade there and back again); but particularly in the growing season Whidbey’s ambiance includes scents and aromas that can’t be included in a brochure, and the backdrops can change every day as fields are cleared, planted, tended, then harvested.
This is also why “Achoo” can be heard a bit more frequently (Achoo To You Too). Pollen must fly. Hay must be mowed. It’s also why some need to be reminded that to grow livestock some manure will be produced, some gases will be expelled, and some foot hazards may arise if a ranch gets visited.
Compared to the rest of the nation world, local farms are local, run by local folks and families, people who supply the restaurants, stores, and homes who you might also meet in a restaurant, a store, or someone’s home. It’s local. It’s personal. They live here. (Though whether they can afford the time and money to dine out is also personal.)
Want to celebrate them? For at least one day, oh say, this weekend, cruise the island finding everything you need for every meal. Not just produce and meats, but also drinks, cheeses, dairy, sweets, whatever. Not only does every meal become a story, but every part of the meal does, too.
No need to overdo it though. There are weekends for beer, wine, liquor, – but that’s another story. And oh why not, you’ll probably drive by at least one brewpub, winery, or distillery. If you like that sort of thing, maybe stop by and ask for their suggestion about what works will with the foods you found.
Here are some links from the Whidbey Island Grown Collective to help get you started.
- Bell’s Farm
- 12 Birches Farm
- Deep Harvest Farm
- Mutiny Bay Blues Farm
- Foxtail Farm
- Kettle’s Edge Farm
- Orchard Kitchen
- Skyroot Farm
- Organic Farm School
And there is far more. You just may have to go out there and explore.