At that time of year when the same meal is on nearly everyone’s mind, What’s Up wonders what does ‘eating local’ really mean?
Despite an overcast chill this past Saturday afternoon, the Poulsbo Farmers Market was abuzz as usual, only in an unusual, book-fair-ish venue.
What’s Up was there, seeking the wisdom on “eating local.”
And perhaps a locally grown turkey.
A late-November group of the market’s vendors was packed into a meeting room on the bottom level of the Poulsbo Library. Tables of local produce, baked goods, cheese and handmade work crowded the room while a flow of patrons wandered, shopped and purchased.
The merchants dealt best they could with the tiny vending spaces.
There seemed to be fewer than you’d find at a summer session of the market. Also notably absent were the wafting scent of barbecued cheeseburger and the ambience of live music. But at this time last year, the market would’ve already been headed well into dormancy.
As with others like it across the state, the Poulsbo Farmers Market has typically ceased each winter, beginning with the change in weather and the end of the fall harvest in mid-to-late October. Others, like markets in Ballard and Port Angeles, are open year round. Markets in Olympia, Bainbridge and Bellingham are open April through December.
Poulsbo Market Manager Jackie Atchison said she’d like to see the Poulsbo market to evolve into a longer-seasoned market. She said it’s been met with a mixed response by vendors, but the market is working to help educate its farmers growing year-round.
“If we want people to think of their farmers markets as their local grocery stores, we have to be open more,” she said.
Over the past few years, Atchison has been studying and practicing living locally — particularly eating locally.
“Currently it’s a real mantra for me,” she said.
In addition to being market manager at the Poulsbo market, she also serves as administrative director for the Washington State Farmers Market Association. So, Atchison seemed an apt source for what the phase “eating local” really means.
She pauses, when I ask her … she’s searching for the definition of a complicated issue.
“Most people, when they think about eating local, they try to eat food that is either grown or produced within a certain region around them,” she says. “Some people use the 100-mile diet. … Some people say they’ll try to do closer in, some further out. Some people commit to just doing their vegetables.”
While Washington’s climate provides a wealth of diversity for organically grown produce, there are some things that are difficult-to-impossible at a local farmers market, especially year-round. You’ll be hard pressed to find things like tropical fruit or coffee or (sadly in this case) turkey.
But eating (and living) local encompasses more than simply shopping at farmers market. It’s supporting local business all around.
“For those of us who are die-hard coffee drinkers, coffee isn’t local,” Atchison said. “But you can make the commitment to buy your coffee from a local, Poulsbo or Kitsap roaster. Because we have those here.”
The conversation evolves to eating local for Thanksgiving and Atchison notes pumpkins and squash, potatoes, onions and garlic all available from local sources at farmers markets. She also notes the choice of buying bread or baked goods from local bakers — like Sluys or Liberty Bay in Poulsbo, Louigi’s or Pat’s in Bremerton or Monica’s in Silverdale — as compared to from a corporate grocer.
“The cool thing is,” she says, “if you buy your food locally produced and grown, that dollar circulates three times in the immediate economy before it leaves the county. When you shop at a chain or you shop at a big box store, a greater percentage of that dollar leaves the county very quickly.
“It’s all about the local economy and how it can overcome the globalization of us,” she says later, in reference one of the books she’s read on the subject — “The Small-Mart Revolution” by Michael Shuman — inadvertently summing up the meaning of “eating local.”
THE POULSBO FARMERS MARKET is now closed for the season, as are markets in Silverdale, Kingston, Bremerton and Port Orchard. However, the Bainbridge Island In-Door Winter Market kicked off Nov. 22 and will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 20 at Eagle Harbor Community Church at the intersection of Winslow Way and Madison Ave. in Bainbridge.
To find more year round markets, and more info on those local, visit the Washington State Farmers Market Association at www.wafarmersmarkets.com.