So much to do and so little time, it always seems that we’ll never catch up, but lo and behold – next week we will have been open for one full year! Over the year, we’ve assembled quite an impressive array of local food producers, whose wares we proudly feature, and we’ve been concentrating on stocking our shelves with all the accompanying products it takes to create a full-service grocery. We’re happy with the result.
Next Friday, November 19, from 5 o’clock on, we’ll host a birthday party to celebrate. We’ll have food and beverages, entertainment, local producers to meet, and lots of fun. Look for the balloons to guide you and assure you that there’s a party in progress.
Thank you to our wonderful customers, who show up faithfully, give us lots of encouragement, offer suggestions, and keep us smiling. You are the reason we’re still here, the community we’re trying to do our part to build. It seems to be working, so let’s give it a go for another year!
Naval Avenue School located at 900 Olympic Avenue, which also houses the Boys and Girls Club of Bremerton http://www.bgcsps.org/bremerton.htm, has a fine set of raised bed gardens already in place where crops of lettuce, tomatoes and squash are growing right now. Pam Schnieder, volunteer coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club, has taken responsibility for tending the garden this summer and planning the winter garden.
StartNow Gardens, produce supplier for Freshlocal, is just a few blocks away from Naval Avenue School, and Jean and Glenn have naturally taken a role in developing the gardens. Now we’re involved in planning and plant production for the coming winter.
We think this is a marvelous opportunity to bring some valuable education and good local food to a great group of kids, and to develop a model which could be copied in many other schools in our community. There is lots of room for volunteers to contribute time, knowledge and other resources, and make this a stellar project that keeps on giving fresh, local food to many families in our town. Naval Avenue School only goes to 3rd grade, but the Boys and Girls Club after school program also involves older kids from all over town.
We’ll set up a program to work in the garden, and to provide training and supervision for kids and their parents to learn how to garden, plus advice for interested families on how to create gardens of their own at home. We have high hopes that this project will have legs and lead to school gardens and home grown food in schools all over Bremerton.
StartNow will organize volunteer scheduling and activities, and FreshLocal will serve as a hub for gathering volunteer contact information and contributions. We’ll take cash donations to purchase seeds, tools, library materials and such, and gardening related items that could be useful.
The basic resources, the gardens themselves, are already there. Let’s put them to best use! Please sign up, and let us know if you’re available for a one-shot work party or ongoing involvement. This will be fun!
Now that cherry season is finally here, you have probably noticed that the big grocery chains, Safeway, QFC and Albertsons, are offering cherries for sale at a very cheap price. Here at FreshLocal we know that our suppliers can’t compete with that price, and so here at the store we can’t either. Our cherries are organic, and the supermarket offerings are not, but still, you might wonder, why shouldn’t you take advantage of the “bargains?”
Well, there’s a good reason in this case, and probably in every similar situation (they happen often). Here’s the story. Last year was a bumper crop year for cherries. Orchards produced record crops of delectable fruit, and following the law of supply and demand, prices came down. The supermarket chains contract for their supplies far in advance, and they made contracts for this year’s fruit based on last year’s prices. (Of course, they have far superior bargaining power over any orchard in making those contracts.) We know what the weather has been like this growing season, and agriculture in general has suffered to the point that the governor last week declared virtually the entire state as a disaster area. The cherry crop suffered perhaps most of all, both in quality and quantity. The season will be shortened by weeks, and processing operations are curtailed. Still, those big orchards burdened with those now punitive contracts have no choice but to deliver, and all the smaller orchardists then suffer from the competition. They are all big losers.
The cherry supplies at FreshLocal and the farmers markets are brought to us by local people who travel to Eastern Washington each week to purchase fruit from small orchards know to them personally as producing high quality fruit. Sometimes they even pick the fruit themselves, but they always put tremendous effort and investment into the venture. Their fruit is perishable, and must be sold promptly, and their prices are more than fair for their circumstances. Our FreshLocal store has to mark up their prices to realize enough from sales to keep the store open. It’s plain to see what happens to all of us if you, our public, shops the bargains at Safeway instead of buying from us. Our suppliers bought the fruit this week, and we bought from them, but if you don’t buy from us this week, what will happen next week?
Meanwhile, the big growers with the punitive contracts have huge losses to face this year also. Maybe the governor’s disaster declaration with bring them some compensation from federal funds, but you can believe it won’t be enough. So the entire Washington cherry industry is being brought down this year by the big chains.
Big corporations value profits right now above anything else. Ironically, the supermarket chains are probably selling their cheap cherries at or below their own cost, creating “loss leaders” to bring the public into their stores to buy other products, boosting their overall profits. If the Washington cherry business is brought down in this bizarre year, they will use some other commodity next year to accomplish their goals. We the public will only lose.
We Americans seem to value cheapness in food above all else. Grocery ads always feature low prices, never high quality. People who very willingly, even proudly, spend whatever to buy cars, clothes and houses still want their food to be cheap. “You get what you pay for” applies to food just as much as everything else, however, even though in the case of food the diminished quality and supply often happens in the future.
It is in our own best interest then to look at the future consequences of our purchases today, and buy to ensure that we will have the food we want and need in years to come. We are counting on you.
The slow, slow progress of this growing season is difficult to accept. The salad greens are wonderful, but we’re craving the brighter colors we associate with summer, and the latest news is more delay. We’ll have strawberries in the store this week (and hooray for that!), but we’ve been told we must wait a bit longer for blueberries and cherries.
It’s the other news, however, that really strikes a chill. Oil in the Gulf of Mexico may be a thousand miles and more away, but the impact of the disaster is staining everyone’s beach. Oil and food are all too closely related. Read The End of Food by Paul Roberts, for example, or Eating Fossil Fuels by Dale Allen Pfeiffer for a fuller understanding of this sober situation, but be aware, at least, of the single fact that 90% of what it takes to bring “regular” food from the globalized food system to the table is fossil energy, oil gas and coal involved in every phase of food production and delivery. One outcome of the tragedy is certain. Future deepwater drilling in the Gulf will be far more costly (if it happens at all), and those costs will be immediately reflected in the cost of food. It is more and more widely accepted now that worldwide peak oil production is already behind us, and so the catastrophic Gulf oil event will only exacerbate the problems of declining oil supplies, all too soon to be reflected in declining food supplies.
Meanwhile, in the Arctic, polar sea ice extent has been melting at a faster rate this spring than it did in 2007, when ice surface set an all time low record, air temperatures around the polar region have been running 4 to 9 degrees above average, and ice volume (reflecting the thinning of the polar ice layer) is down drastically, 32% below the 30 year May average. These are strong predictors of accelerating global warming, and all the negative impacts that is sure to have on food supplies.
So here we are, wanting our cherries and tomatoes because we know how wonderful they are, and having to wait considerably longer than we would like for them, but also needing our local food because we can see that the time is coming when the globalized food system will let us down.
We don’t have nearly enough farms and farmers in Kitsap County to feed our population. Somehow, we need to convince more of our neighbors to produce food, and we must support them when they do. FreshLocal, along with farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA’s), are here for that reason, to make the local connection and start building the strength we’ll need in the tougher times to come.
Our local farmers are having a really tough time this year. They have planted crops that failed, and they’ve had to replant. They’ve lost sales of the failed crops and had to pony up extra expense for the new ones. Farming is hard work anyway, even when the sun shines, but this spring it’s been tough to keep spirits up. Now is the time for the community to step up with strong support. It will take years of sustained effort to create the food supply we need to sustain us in the future, and this is a really good time to rally round.
Finally, we dare to think about warmth and sunshine! It’s been a difficult spring for local farmers, and local offerings are still few. We have super fresh lettuce and other salad greens every day, but we’ve been longing for local fruit. Now we can say that berries are coming, and that cherries are ripening! Here in the state of Washington, we can expect the very best of these.
Farmer Paul Gregory is our reliable source for blueberries, and he tells us that he may be bringing in the first berries of the season in late June.
Rob Story, who now lives in Chimicum, is well known to a number of people in our community as our source for all the precious stone fruits of summer – the cherries, apricots and peaches, and then the marvelous array of apples in the fall. The fruit he brings to us is all organic, and beyond that, Rob buys from the very best organic orchards for top quality. He brings the fruit in his refrigerated truck, so that it will come to us exceptionally fresh and in best condition. These are the fruits we will have for sale this summer.
FreshLocal customers who want case lot quantities of fruit from Rob can order them from us. We will receive the deliveries and hold them in the store for pickup.
Start Now Farm will be bringing us the first ripe tomatoes of the year VERY soon. We picked the first one today, and there should be enough to put out on the produce table within a couple of weeks.
Eggplants, peppers and summer squash are blooming, the cucumbers, beans, collards and such are coming along. The farmers have done their part. Now we just hope for the weather best and trust that the processes of nature will deliver bounty to us yet again. As the crops arrive, you will find them at FreshLocal.
Just when we were ready to launch all sorts of new plans, new products, new arrangements for a more vibrant and successful FreshLocal, construction on the long-awaited beautification of Pacific Avenue commenced, our street was closed at the Pacific end (the usual source of most of our traffic) and our world changed. We see businesses struggling behind construction scenes all the time and think it must be tough. Well, it is. We’re more difficult to reach, and the result is quite noticeable. We’re tightening our belts, and just hoping that enough of our lovely customers will make the extra effort to find us, and keep us going until that happy day when the new and beautiful Pacific Avenue reopens, traffic flow normalizes, and we can pick up our enthusiastic progress where we left off.
Meanwhile, we carry on, and tomorrow we welcome Mary Hensley, the former Peace Corps worker who went back to the tribes she worked with during her service and assisted them in forming the Eighth Wonder Heirloom Rice company to distribute the beautiful grains they raise by hand on the high mountain terraces of a remote area of the Phillipines. National Geographic Traveler magazine featured the area in its October 2009 Anniversary Issue, and you can glimpse the spectacular scenes that inspired that choice on the company website http://www.heirloomrice.com/ Mary will cook rice, show slides and talk about her experiences and how the company has preserved the ancient traditions that have fostered the grains over the centuries. We expect her to arrive around 10 and to be in the store to meet you all at least until one.
We’ll be serving soup (Italian Wedding w/meatballs and Potato vegetable) and stocking the produce table with local rhubarb and braising greens, and the largest, sweetest grapefruits, the grand finale of the season. We hope to see you there.
It’s been way too long since my last post, and it’s not because I’ve been lazing around. It’s because there has been so much happening that I couldn’t catch a moment to write about it. Spring is upon us, lot’s of new growth, in the store and out.
Our beloved Lisamarie, who has been the mainstay keeping the store going since the beginning, has moved to Chehalis with her family, and left some mighty big shoes to fill! Luckily, some wonderful new people, Holly, Jenny, Gordon and Semeon, have stepped up to take on management duties. They had some short but intensive training from Lisamarie, and are proving quite capable of doing all the complicated tasks that must be done. Heartfelt thank you and fare thee well to Lisamarie, and big welcome to new staff!
I’m finding more and more connections to local food all the time, and some wonderful new distribution options that will enable us to bring them into the store, even when the source isn’t quite close enough for the farmers or makers to bring the food themselves. Look for lots of additions to our product lines as we move farther into the new season and solidify these contacts.
Perhaps the most exciting news is that we’re getting ready to publish a brand new website, http://www.FreshLocal.org! It will feature regularly updated pages providing our current menus, highlighting local producers, listing current fresh offerings, keeping up with local food news, and giving gardening and cooking information. It will be a site you’ll want to visit often. Look for the big publication announcement within the next month.
Then get ready for a wonderful summer! FreshLocal will be a regular participant in the reorganized and dynamic downtown market throughout the summer, and will participate in local events such as the Future Festival and the Olalla Bluegrass Festival.
The big rains are over for a while, and we’re ready to shine!