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Stands offer glimpses of local bounty
You don’t have to wait for the Island Art Studio Tour next month to visit some of Vashon’s artists in their “studios” all winter long.
Nine Vashon farm stands are now showing the art of the land to inspire your visual, olfactory, tactile, and especially gustatory, sensibilities.
For those new to the farm stand concept, farmers stock an outbuilding (or truck, in the case of Sun Island Farm) with fresh vegetables, fruits and in some instances dairy products. Other farm stand items might include processed foods like jams, salsas, chutneys and vinegars, or soaps and infused oils. There’s usually a scale on which to weigh your produce and a place to pay (this ranges from simply a mason jar to a customized payment chute like the one at Langley Fine Gardens in Dockton, where you put your cash into a tennis ball and “feed” a rooster-head cutout — a favorite with kids).
Customers are welcome to visit stands during open hours (usually from dawn to dusk, though some stands are open into the evening with lighting for night-time shoppers). Most stands are located within easy access of a main road and within peeking distance of the fields and greenhouses that bring so much local bounty to our tables.
Jasper Forrester, a 13-year veteran farm stand owner who runs GreenMan Farm on Dilworth Road with her husband Will, says her stand is the foundation of her community.
“I’ve developed relationships with my customers over the years — these are people who’ve become really good friends of mine,” she said. “It’s not just a business and what I do for work, this is my community. They trust me to grow good food for them, and there’s a great honor in that trust.”
Forrester’s customers enjoy bringing visitors to the farm to see how things are grown and meet Hazel the Jersey Cow and the chickens.
“There’s a connection to the farmer and the food that you never ever get at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods — it humanizes the world of farming. And because we have this local farm food system, farmers are recapturing the nobility of farming,” she said. “All these little farm stands epitomize local versus organic. Not all of us are certified organic, but all of us are growing organically. We think it’s more important to focus on growing local food than just have that organic label.”
In addition to the improved taste and better nutrition of farm-fresh veggies, Forrester says people value that there’s much less petroleum used and no packaging involved when food goes directly from “the field to the farmer’s hand to the consumer’s plate.”
Islander Mark Musick also values the sustainability factor when it comes to at-the-farm shopping.
“Our easy access to farm-fresh foods offers a taste of the Island’s agrarian heritage,” said Musick, one of the founders of the regional Tilth movement who is currently working on a City of Seattle food security program. “I like knowing the dollars I spend at a farm go directly into the local economy. Shopping at farm stands is a way we can all contribute to making our community more sustainable.”
Forrester is pleased to see Island farm stands flourishing, and thinks there’s still room for more. Even with Hogsback Farm just around the corner from her farm, she’s motivated by — rather than worried about — competition, and gratified by customers who make consecutive stops at both stands part of their shopping routine.
Karen Biondo of K-Jo Farm on 111th Avenue S.W. is celebrating the one-year anniversary of her and her husband Joe Walling’s farm stand this month. They’ve been farming for eight years and at one time had a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, but they favor the flexibility of a farm stand.
“It’s a great way for customers to get what they want, when they want it. They don’t have to get five pounds of kale because that’s what I’m harvesting now as they did with our CSA,” she said. Right now her stand features winter squash, onions and “that which cannot be named.” Biondo urges the curious to join her e-mail list to find out what “that” is.
The K-Jo stand is a work of art built for $84, mostly of reused and repurposed items. Framed with wooden pallets, the roof and metal walls are fashioned from pieces of an old barn roof, and the steps are composed of fence posts rescued from the burn pile. The Dutch door is a composite of castoffs found on the property, and an antique cream separator and hanging woven baskets lend the aura of a pioneer country store.
“Farm stands are a great educational experience to the consumer public about what really is fresh right now — we’re not going to have tomatoes in January, so eat your beets and like it,” she said with a laugh.
Though not technically a stand, Sea Breeze Farm sells its farm stand goods at La Boucherie Restaurant in Vashon, offering a range of meats and cheeses, plus milk and wine. The restaurant serves farm-grown meals Fridays and Saturdays. (Call 567-4628 for details, or visit seabreezefarm.net.)
Leda Langley of Langley Fine Gardens appreciates it when customers leave notes saying that her and her husband Matt’s farm stand saved them a trip to town.
“When you live in Dockton, there’s no other place to get a pound of potatoes, onion or carrots,” she said. She also revels in the way her stand connects her with customers. She does a veggie-coffee trade with a coffee roaster from Italy, who was thrilled to find out the farm grew one of his childhood favorites: wild Italian arugula.
Langley is excited about her crop of sweet potatoes and expects to sell out before Thanksgiving, so keep that in mind as you make your Turkey Day shopping list. There’s a whole lot of farm stand fare out there to enliven your table and your taste buds.
Eat local for Thanksgiving
Pledge to have at least one local item on your Thanksgiving table and enter a drawing to win one of five locally raised heritage turkeys.
Visit a farm stand or the Farmers Market this Saturday (the last market before Thanksgiving) to find your local item. To take the pledge, visit: www.pugetsoundfresh.org/eatlocal/index.asp.
And visit Karen Dale’s blog, Garden On, Vashon, at blogs.vashonbeachcomber.com/gardenon/ to read about a Locavore’s Thanksgiving, where much of the food for the holiday spread is raised on-Island.
A map of Island farm stands