Good Food is on the Rise

the good food

We recently saw the film “Good Food” at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). I won’t give away all the film’s story, neither do I want to formally review it. I do want to say this film was important to watch — really for everyone who eats 🙂

Its SIFF description included: “This lively tour of various Washington State farms and ranches that have adopted healthier organic methods in raising their products offers several lucid arguments in favor of smaller, more efficient farms, and purchasing locally grown crops.” If you are in Seattle and have some dough for a night out while supporting our local farmers, you can enjoy a fund-raising dinner at Rover’s restaurant on June 17th. There you can also meet the film makers and some of the featured farmers.

What we learnt from “Good Food” was not necessarily surprising, but it was amazing. Film makers Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young brought us lessons straight from the source – our farmers! with vivid scenes and personal stories. The film made more real all the hard work put into our food. It featured Alm Hill Gardens, Alvarez, Blue Bird Grain, Blue Heron, Skagit River Ranch, M and B Orchards, Marra, Billy’s Gardens, and more.

Because we saw “Good Food” at SIFF, after the screening we met directors Dworkin and Young, and farmers Gretchen Hoyt and Ben Craft, the folks behind Alm Hill Gardens. It was wonderful to hear first-hand that like so many other local farmers and ranchers, they work not to get rich, but for the good of the community! Ben shared more of Alm Hill’s story: when they first produced raspberries, several decades ago, their only options were selling to canneries or distributors. Neither type of corporation cared whether the food was organic and neither gave them the personal, community connection they craved.

aspiring asparagus

Then Alm Hill found Pike Place Market in Seattle, where for more than 100 years the motto has been “Meet the Producer.” Pike Place Market was their first chance to sell directly to the people. Selling at Pike Place kept them in business, proudly if barely, and they have now sold there for more than 25 years.

Today with the rise of farmers’ markets all over Cascadia, Alm Hill and many others are really seeing the fruits of their labor. Washington State alone now has over 100 farmers’ markets. An amazing number, isn’t it? Good food is on the rise! Good food also has a bright future, as Growing Washington, a non-profit 501 c 3, is helping to carry Alm Hill’s legacy into the future.

Sustainability is not only an environmental issue, it is also about our economy — it is building markets that work fairly for both producer and consumer. You can do your part just by buying more food directly from farmers and ranchers. Don’t give your hard-earned money to the middle men and profit-takers at large, corporate brands and grocery chains. Small farms produce higher quality foods and incredibly, they do it more efficiently than large industrial farms because they have much less waste per acre. Our entire food system would be more efficient, more sustainable, and healthier for everyone if it was based on small farms using modern, organic methods.

beautiful local rhubarb

Are there limits to eating local? Well, there is no way I am giving up a good mango when I see it, and we can’t grow them in our climate. I will buy almost all my foods locally, though and I am always looking to reinforce my commitment.

Finally, there is that most human reason — that we instinctively and personally want to meet the producers, just as they want to meet us. The farmers we saw in the film and talked to afterward wake up at 3 a.m. to load their trucks. This labor of love is not done just to pay their bills and they’re certainly not getting rich. They do this to see who is buying their produce and to learn what we think about it after we do. They love to hear how much we loved their spinach, or that our kids ate peas for the first time because they were so fresh and wonderful 🙂

Don’t we all feel the same, that we want to know what went into our food and we want to meet the people who grew it? Farmers’ markets are a win-win in so many ways.

Just this past weekend, I talked to a local rancher, Eiko from Skagit River Ranch at the Ballard Sunday Farmers’ Market, who I had seen along with her family in “Good Food.” I had to tell her that I was so happy to see the chickens where my eggs came from, and all the dedication they had to bringing their best to market. She gave me the biggest smile and a heartfelt thank-you. I’ll never forget that connection. When tempted to grab a carton of eggs at the grocery store, I’m now sure to hold out for the farmers’ market, as well I should.

pick up some local cherries

Here are a few future show times for “Good Food” while it is playing around Seattle. If you can take a long lunch break and want to catch a free screening, go to the Seattle City Council’s Brown Bag Lunch viewing on July 9th.

For more about eating local and connecting to the source:

  • The Washington Farm Link is operated in conjunction with Cascade Harvest Coalition
  • Growing Washinton is a non-profit with many programs in sustainable agriculture, economic and societal health, and cultural preservation
  • Seattle Chefs Collaborative “works with chefs and the greater food community to celebrate local foods and foster a more sustainable food supply. Our members embrace seasonality, preserve diversity and traditional practices, and support local economies.” Seth Caswell, chef of Stumbling Goat restaurant has been on the forefront of this.
  • Gleaning Project recovers local surplus produce to feed the hungry in Whatcom County
  • Sustainable Ballard is my neighborhood’s organized effort toward general sustainability