Raise your hand if you planted tomato starts at the beginning of May only to see them stunted by the cold, wet spring in our region that extended into “June-uary”
Now imagine you were a farmer in Whatcom or Skagit counties whose livelihood depended upon being able to supply customers with fresh produce. Instead of the weather being a mild inconvenience, plantings that were delayed by two to five weeks because of saturated soil and cooler temperatures meant it would take even longer for the plants to grow and the produce to get to market.
Fill Your Pantry, an event taking place during the Saturday, Aug. 6 Bellingham Farmers Market, is a way to benefit both the farmers and their customers. Patrons can stock up on a wide diversity of summer favorites such as blackberries, blueberries, peppers and tomatoes, while growers can sell the food they've grown when it's at its peak and bountiful.
With produce peaking due to the late summer weather, customers line up to buy fresh food from Sunseed Farm. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
“If there's any year to support a farmer, it's this one,”
market director Lora Liegel said. “The cold and wet spring delayed some of their produce items, but they're now seeing it come on.”
As well as encouraging people to bring home more produce than they would on a typical visit to the Saturday market, Liegel said the event will also include tips to help people make the most of their purchases.
In addition to handing out recipes and food preservation ideas during Fill Your Pantry, for everything from quick pickles to freezer jam and pasta sauce, a link on the Bellingham Farmers Market blog currently offers up a featured products list from participating farmers — along with recipe suggestions and ways to extend the life of purchases.
At Cedarville Farm, for example, featured products include cherry tomatoes and sweet bell peppers. A recipe for cherry tomato jam is included, along with a suggestion to cool the jam in the fridge, then freeze it in small containers.
Produce is stocked and ready for buyers at the Bellingham Farmers Market on July 30. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
Everson's Cloud Mountain Farm Center will be selling a whole lot of plums, and have included a recipe for plum galettes. Mariposa Farm will be featuring cucumbers for refrigerator pickles, and Rabbit Field Farm will be highlighting basil for pesto (pro tip: freeze it in ice cube trays, and enjoy it for many moons to come).
Other recipes from various farms include zucchini muffins (bake and cool, then freeze for later), quick-pickle onions and carrots, Cascadia Mushroom cream sauce, honey lemonade, honey-spiced peaches (requires boil bathing), quinoa salad with salmon, blueberry chutney, mixed-berry jam, honey cookies (freeze the cookie dough), and various soups and stews that can be split up and frozen for later.
Before or after securing your haul, drop by one of the many local nonprofits focused on food and farming that will be on hand at the event, such as Sustainable Connections and the Bellingham Food Bank.
Evan Gutierrez carries a basket of produce, one of two for his family, as he shops at the Bellingham Farmers Market on July 30. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
Another Fill Your Pantry event will likely take place in November, Liegel said. The fall one will focus on food items that can be easily stored, such as potatoes, carrots, onions and beets. Hopefully, it will take place before Thanksgiving, making it easier to set the table for a holiday feast.
“This is our pilot year for the event, so we're focusing on engaging customers and letting them know which produce items are in season now,”
Liegel said. “At each vendor booth this Saturday, there will be a card that says what the featured items are. Ideally, we will eventually have pre-orders and pre-purchases. Right now we're focused on getting the word out, and encouraging customers to buy a little extra.”
Fill Your Pantry takes place during the Bellingham Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m Saturday, Aug. 6 at the Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave. Find highlighted items, recipes and suggestions for extending the life of your produce at bellinghamfarmers.org/blog.