Monday, January 17, 2011

A Gathering of Farmers and Fishers

The most amazing full rainbow I've seen on our farm yet! See this post's end for the other half...

I am still buzzing from the great gathering of local farmers and fishermen at the Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe last Sunday night! When North Coast Food Web, the Astoria Co-op and BSB were first planning the event, I knew that it had potential to be a productive evening. It turned out better than I had even hoped. In spite of the torrential rain and flooding that sadly kept some of our South and Tillamook County folks from being there, attendance was huge and the mood was enthusiastic. I was especially encouraged to see so many new growers show up.

The plan was to bring together both new and experienced local food producers for an evening of socializing and information sharing. After enjoying the delicious soup supplied by the Blue Scorcher and the many tasty potluck offerings brought to the table, we got down to the program. Our main goals were to give everyone up-to-date information on selling at local farmer's markets (especially the new food only River People Farmer's Market coming to Astoria this summer), provide helpful information on local wholesale selling and to give the NCFW board a chance to listen to farmers and fishermen speak about both the barriers and opportunities they encounter here on the North Coast. This will help NCFW focus our future efforts to better support the emerging local food economy in our region.

The discussion was stimulating and informative, and I think the best part was all the socializing and connecting that went on before and after the official event. I wish we could have spent longer on some topics, but I know we will be having more meetings like this in the future, and hopefully we can dig deeper into those subjects then.

Local chefs checking out the Cannon Beach Farmer's Market

I'd love to see a Farmer-Chef Connection event like the one that happens in Portland take place here on the coast! I know they can be a lot of work to organize, but with the great chefs we have here in our region, and the growing number of local food producers, it could be an event to remember. (I'll just add that to my to-do list, shall I?)

I know this picture doesn't relate to anything I'm saying here, but I just love this old tree on our farm with the lichen covered branches, and couldn't help but stick a picture of it in in here somewhere...

One of the most thought provoking moments of the evening for me came from Garth Porteur who operates the fishing vessel Little John out of Astoria. His story of the crazy regulations that govern how he can–and mostly can't–sell his fresh hook and line caught fish make many of the barriers that small farmers moan about pale by comparison.

As I understood it, he is the only person who can sell his fish, and he can only sell his fish right off his boat at the dock, not from a truck in town, not at a farmer's market. He is only allowed to sell his fish directly to the customer- meaning that if I'm going down to pick up fish for myself, and you give me the money to pick one up for you too, I'd have to be licensed and bonded to do that, otherwise it's illegal.

If he has caught huge 25 pound salmon, you and I can't go down to his boat and buy the fish together and then go over to the filet table, split it, and each drive off with half a fish- that's illegal. If Garth is injured or ill, and a friend steps in to sell his fish from his boat for him before they go bad–that's illegal. There was more, and it all just made me furious. None of the regulations made sense unless you realized that they exist simply to prevent independent fishermen like Garth from prospering at their craft. That has got to change somehow. Unlike for small farmers, there is no 'Friends of Family Fishermen' organization, but there should be.

To me the evening was a great success, and I'm excited to think of it as being the first of many gatherings like this. I left feeling a renewed enthusiasm for farming on the North Coast, and looking forward to the upcoming growing season.

Astoria Sunday Market 2009... sigh.....

Packy and I are determined to have our farm back at some of the local markets this year! Since we're starting the season with an intact greenhouse, we'll definitely have plant starts available earlier this year, so all you local plant lovers that missed us last year, take heart! Our plan is to sell plants through the Astoria Co-op, and we will definitely do some of the Astoria Sunday Markets as well. I don't know about the other markets yet, but I promise we'll try.

One of my favourite flower combinations- color and more color!

For you flower fans out there who keep asking, I am really hoping to be able to bring some of our Ball Jar Bouquets and Edible Bouquets to market this year. It all depends on the weather, and whether or not we can get our elk fence built in time to make planting flowers worth while. We already have the best fed elk and deer in Clatsop County–they have been dining on our winter rye and vetch cover crop for months now. I refuse to feed them my flowers as well.

I want to finish and get this posted before I get distracted by the Real Job again, or my seed ordering obsession, or one of the many other things that absorbs time these days.

I do just want to put out a 'Save the Date! call to all of you, and let you know that I just agreed to be a speaker at this year's Clatsop County Master Gardeners 'Spring Into Gardening' event on Saturday April 17th, so put it on your calendars. The focus of this year's event is on the right plant for the right place, so my talk will focus on the edible plants that will do well here, on the North Oregon Coast. And I promise, it won't just be a passionate plea for greater kale appreciation! There are a lot of delicious plants we can grow here, and I'm going to inspire you all to dig up your lawns this year and plant some of them!

All the recent rain has been a challenge to everyone's mood here, but hang in there- you know that sometime soon that magic week in February is going to arrive. You know, the one where the sun comes out and it feels warm, and you can strip down to just a t-shirt if you're working outside, and maybe even get a wee bit of sun on your face. You get over excited, start digging in soil that is way too wet, and plant things outside that you really shouldn't put outside yet.

It's a glorious week, but remember, it's going to bring in a hail storm. So just be ready.

The other half of the rainbow....

As we stood in the greenhouse watching the amazing, vivid rainbow shift between single and double that day, I observed that this was obviously a blessing on our truck! However, about a week after the photo was taken I was driving this same truck along Highway 202 and hit a patch of black ice, skidding off the road into a ditch. All was ok, and a very nice neighbor rescued me and gave me a ride into town to find Packy, as cell phone reception is pretty spotty out where we live. Once the truck was towed out of the ditch and examined, neither the truck nor I had a scratch on us.

Come to think of it, maybe the rainbow blessing did work after all....

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