Hosted tastings noon to 3 pm:
Downtown store on Saturday;
Cordata store on Sunday.
by Megan Stilp, Cordata Produce
Nick Guilford tending plant starts in Sunseed Farm’s eight greenhouses. After the germination chamber, the small starts move into this warm greenhouse to grow before being hardened off for outdoor planting in the cooler greenhouses.
Nestled in the valley of the south fork of the Nooksack River sits Sunseed Farm. Nick Guilford, proprietor, has been using organic growing methods since starting the business in 1997 and obtained organic certification in 2001. On the farm you’ll find organic garden starts, many destined for sale at the Co-op, growing right alongside the plants that go into Sunseed’s fields for vegetable and herb production.
This makes for less transplant shock, and an earlier, more abundant yield.
Most plant starts sold in our area are chemically raised, which can make for a hard transition into a garden where they aren't being fed a nutrient solution every day. According to Sunseed’s website, “Our organic starts not only come with a longer lasting nutrient base in the pot, but the plants are also in a more natural, nutrient foraging relationship with the soil. This makes for less transplant shock, and an earlier, more abundant yield.” Additionally, over a 20-year career as a market farmer, Nick has selected varieties of crops that have been proven to thrive in our climate. All of these factors can help produce a successful home gardening experience when using starts from Sunseed Farm.
You can find their organic garden starts at both Community Food Co-op locations from about mid-March through the end of our often unpredictable local planting season. You can also find Sunseed Farm at the Saturday Bellingham Farmers Market.
Dedicated to your gardening success, Sunseed’s website is a great resource for the home gardener, with planting tips and schedules, articles on season extension, and even a selection of their favorite gardening tools and books available for purchase.
Margaret Gerard and Nick Guilford at Sunseed Farm get your garden starts growing with the best soil, optimal growing conditions, and lots of love.
by Meggan Simpson, Downtown Produce
Farmers Nick Spring and Sarah Robinson enjoy a quiet moment on their farm in Everson with farm dog Henry.
photo by TwoFish Photography
Here at the Co-op we realize that farming is hard work, seven days a week, and a pretty challenging way to make a living. It is also an integral part of our community and local food system, which is why the Co-op has created programs like the Farm Fund that offer resources to help small farms like Spring Time Farm make their dreams of bringing fresh, nutrient-dense food to their community a reality.
Sarah Robinson and Nick Spring took the next step, with the assistance of a Co-op Farm Fund Next Step grant, and purchased property for their expanding produce and flower farm.
Nick Spring and Sarah Robinson at Spring Time Farm recently received a Next Step Grant—a relatively new Farm Fund program designed to help small farms take the next step and scale up to provide the wholesale market—and we are so happy to help them expand to their very own property. After farming their first four years leasing land, sharing tools, and receiving mentorship from Dusty Williams at Broad Leaf Farm, they are now in the process of moving to their recently purchased 37-acre property where they plan to farm 5 to 7 acres at a time while rotating their crops to ensure soil fertility and health.
Sarah washing lettuce. Look for signs identifying their organic produce and flowers in our stores this summer and support these up-and-coming local farmers.
photo byTwoFish Photography
So where did it all begin for Spring Time Farm? Nick Spring is originally from Portland, Oregon, and was attending Western Washington University in 2012 while running a garden system in town called Bellingham Urban Growers Syndicate (BUGS). You may have seen him bicycling around between classes with rototillers, rakes, and shovels in his trailer, or perhaps you owned one of the 11 plots of land he grew veggies on throughout town. He didn’t grow up farming or gardening but it is in Nick’s genes.
The name Spring Time Farm was the name of the farm Nick’s grandfather ran until he was 90!
Not only was BUGS a transition to reconnecting Nick to his farming heritage and his realization that he wanted to make a career growing food for the community, but BUGS is also how Nick met his amazing and talented partner Sarah Robinson. Sarah grew up in Maryland, went to college in Boston, and spent many years bicycle touring the continent before coming to Bellingham. It was here with the already passionate vegetable-growing Nick that she discovered her love for farming. With the constant and diverse challenges of farming—keeping her mind and body engaged while allowing her to be outside connecting with nature— she was hooked!
Nick with an armfull of giant alliums. The farmers of Spring Time Farm found a natural division of labor with Nick Spring taking the lead on the vegetable side of things and Sarah Robinson using her decidedly green thumb as the lead farmer-florist. Of course, they both frequently work together across all areas of the farm.
photo by Sarah Robinson
Nick and Sarah have been farming together for four years now and the quality and abundance of fruits, veggies, and flowers they bring to the community makes me feel like they have been doing this for so much longer. He is “in charge” of the veggies and she is “in charge” of the flowers, and they have a wonderful employee named Josiah who has been there from the beginning and whose knowledge, hard work, and fresh perspective have been an integral part of their success.
Sarah, Nick, Josiah, and the rest of the crew at Spring Time Farm are always trying new things, looking for new ways to nurture their land and preserve their bodies so they can continue to farm for a very, very long time. And we hope they do!
Nick and Sarah are such a joy to be around, you can see and feel the genuine passion for what they do, and for life in general, shine through in even the smallest interactions with them. You may see them delivering sun-kissed boxes of produce or flowers to either
Co-op store or selling at the Bellingham Farmers Market on Saturdays. Either way, we hope you get a warm and happy feeling when you put something from their local farm into your reusable shopping bag.
Nick and Sarah's enthusiasm for organic farming is contagious. Here they are jumping for joy during the garlic harvest.
photo by Meaghan Flesch
We all benefit from the vibrant local organic farming community in Whatcom County. Maybe you have never grown a vegetable, or just didn’t have time to plant a garden this year, or perhaps all your greens have bolted—don’t fear! Spring Time, Broad Leaf, Terra Verde, Cascadia Mushrooms, Rabbit Fields, Viva Farms, Cedarville, Moondance, Spring Frog, and so many others deliver their
farm-fresh produce to the Co-op to make sure you have delicious and healthful local food to eat.
We know the hard work, dedication to sustainable farming, and connection to nature of these farmers is a large part of what makes the Co-op where you love to shop and Whatcom County such an amazing place to live, eat, and play. Thank you, Hamsters, for supporting your community and all the people who make it go round.
by Selva Wohlgemuth, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist
Keeps fresh like a charm and it's vegan and gluten free! For the perfect work lunch, place 1 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach in the bottom of your food container and top with the bean and pasta mixture. Then shake the container to combine prior to eating.
For the marinade:
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons honey
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the salad:
- 1 16-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 2–3 cups cooked whole-wheat rotini pasta (substitute
with gluten-free bean pasta)
- 3 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup finely diced zucchini (1 medium)
- ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
- ¼ cup red onion, finely diced
- baby spinach*
- Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, Italian seasoning, minced garlic, honey, sea salt, and pepper
in a large bowl and set aside.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
- Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again.
- Add the garbanzo beans, pasta, sundried tomatoes, diced zucchini, parsley, and red onion and mix to combine.
For best flavor allow the bean/pasta mixture to marinate
3 hours or overnight.
- Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
- Toss with fresh baby spinach prior to serving.
by Laura Steiger, Outreach Team
The Cedarville Farm crew harvests and bundles spinach at the certified organic farm located near Deming. After bundling, the spinach will be washed and packed for delivery—perhaps to Cedarville’s 150+ CSA subscribers or to one of the farm’s many wholesale accounts. The final destination may even be the Co-op’s certified organic produce departments..
If you’ve lived in Whatcom County for any length of time, you have likely eaten food grown at Cedarville Farm.
Since 1988, Mike and Kim Finger have been working the loamy soil at their farm along the banks of the Nooksack River just west of Deming, and the Community Food Co-op has been proud to sell their fine produce in our stores since that very first year.
“Mike has been a pure joy to talk to and communicate with through the years. Mike and Kim have twice invited our entire produce team out to tour the farm and see how the things we sell are grown and harvested,” said Dave Sands, Downtown produce manager.
In addition to supplying the Co-op, Mike has several retail and wholesale accounts, participates in the Bellingham Farmers Market, and runs a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program serving 150+ members.
Among Cedarville Farm’s accomplishments is being one of the first of three Whatcom County farms to be certified organic.
Among Cedarville Farm’s accomplishments is being one of the first of three Whatcom County farms to be certified organic (Cedarville is number 36 in the state) and, in 1992, establishing the first CSA program north of Seattle (they still have a few original CSA members).
Mike and his farm crew grow about 40 crops including a variety of salad and cooking greens, alliums (varieties of onion and garlic), vegetables galore, tomatoes, and herbs. They also raise broiler chickens, turkeys, and maintain a flock of pastured hens for eggs.
In April 2015, the Co-op Farm Fund secured a low-interest loan for Cedarville Farm in partnership with Industrial Credit Union (ICU). This is the third of six low-interest loans secured by the Farm Fund in partnership with ICU, building on the Farm Fund’s original revolving loan program. The new program allows farms to take out larger loans up to $12,000, build a credit history with ICU—another local, cooperatively run organization—and helps farms tackle impactful on-farm projects that increase resiliency and build the capacity to provide more local food for the Co-op.
As any home gardener knows, weeds are your nemesis and whatever you can do to get ahead of them saves a lot of work in the long run. The same is true on an organic farm, only on a larger scale.
Cedarville Farm used their Co-op Farm Fund secured loan to combat its weedy nemesis.
Cedarville Farm used their Co-op Farm Fund secured loan to combat its weedy nemesis with the purchase of two pieces of cultivation equipment that will dramatically improve the consistency and efficiency of weed control and free staff for the delicate hand labor that simply can’t be accomplished by machine.
Mike purchased a well-cared-for 1970s International Cub cultivating tractor that was used by the Montana State University Extension Service to seed trial crops in Corvallis, Montana. Did you know there was a Corvallis in Montana? Neither did Mike, and he had originally made arrangements to pick up the tractor at the Corvallis that most of us are familiar with in Oregon, but that’s another story.
The cultivating tractor, which hasn’t been manufactured since the early 1980s, is still popular with farmers for two reasons. 1. Its simple, straightforward design makes it easy to maintain and repair on the farm. 2. It is specifically constructed to provide a direct view to the ground, so farmers can precisely navigate between rows without accidentally taking out any precious crops.
He is still on the lookout for one more addition to his weeding arsenal—a tractor-mounted inter-row cultivator.
The Co-op’s Farm Fund is happy to play whatever role we can to help Cedarville Farm grow even more farm-fresh food.
As Dave said, “Mike is very generous with his time and his smiles, and we love Cedarville Farm for that reason, among many.”
Donate to the Co-op’s Farm Fund at any register to join us in growing local, sustainable agriculture and supporting local farmers like Mike Finger of Cedarville Farm.
by Adrienne Renz, Outreach Department
A unique partnership between the Bellingham Farmers Market, Community Food Co-op, Opportunity Council, Sustainable Connections, and Whatcom County Health Department is expanding to increase access to local, healthy, and fresh food throughout Whatcom County. In 2015, our collaborative group was awarded a three-year grant through the 2014 USDA Farm Bill to expand the already successful Fresh Bucks program piloted in 2014 by the Bellingham Farmers Market.
The expanded Fresh Bucks program will further increase access to fresh fruit and produce at the Co-op, Bellingham Farmers Markets, Ferndale Farmers Market, and Twin Sisters Markets, for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as EBT or food stamps.
Fresh Bucks will match the purchase amount of any EBT-eligible produce up to $10 per day toward the purchase of fresh fruit and vegetables.
In addition to increasing access to fresh produce for SNAP recipients, the Fresh Bucks program will also support and promote local farmers and the products they offer.
If you receive SNAP benefits and are new to Fresh Bucks, simply pick out some fresh fruit and vegetables in the produce department when you shop at the Co-op. When checking out, present your EBT card to the cashier; they will enter the last eight digits of your card number, and your credit match will be applied to your produce purchase. Participants are eligible for up to a maximum $10 Fresh Bucks matching credit per day. The 2016 Fresh Bucks season opened June 1 and will run while funds last. So make the best of the local growing season.
For even more savings, look for Co+op Basics items throughout our stores that offer the very best everyday savings on more than 50 staple items, and use the Co+op Deals coupon program (coupons can be found throughout the store and at the customer service desk). Check the sales page on our website to see what’s currently on sale in our stores.
Having identified Healthy Food Access as one of our six 10-year strategic plan goals, and subsequently implementing the Co+op Basics program, helped make the Co-op’s participation in the Fresh Bucks program possible. Our strong track record of engaging in this topic helped build a successful grant proposal.
Last season, the Co-op’s Fresh Bucks match provided $40,000 in fresh produce for local families using EBT.
In the fall, the Co-op will be offering a cooking class based on the beautiful New York Times best-selling book Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day. Visit our website later in the summer for information and to register for this October 5 class.
Our co-op is stepping up as a national leader and demonstrating how a grocery store can engage in promoting fresh, local food and increase access to healthy food. Thanks for identifying and supporting Healthy Food Access as a key issue for our community and for everything you do to make the Co-op a working example of what a cooperative business can achieve.
by Dave Straub, Cordata Produce Department
Amy and Sküter Fontaine, owners of Terra Verde Farm, grow organic vegetables on their 12-acre farm in Everson including specialty crops like ginger, turmeric, and jicama.
If one were to trace the history of Whatcom County’s small organic farms, they would find them all connected in some way. One generation of farmers inspires the next. Guidance is offered and opportunities given. Terra Verde Farm in Everson is a product of this supportive agricultural community and, at the same time, possesses a unique flair. It is a hearty business built from the ground up by a couple of youths with top soil under their fingernails and genuine smiles on their faces.
Eight years ago, Amy and Sküter Fontaine wanted to challenge themselves to grow their own food. So, with a handful of seeds and a community garden plot, they discovered the magic of making things grow. It was such a positive experience they decided to make it their livelihood. Mike Finger, of Cedarville Farm, leased them the land and equipment to start their dream. After outgrowing that space, they moved to Everson where their business, Terra Verde, currently thrives on 12 organic acres leased from Dusty Williams of Broadleaf Farm.
"with farming there is a drive you feel to move beyond what you thought was possible and it transforms your life"
I pedaled out to Everson this August to pay them a visit. The first thing I noticed about Amy and Sküter is how friendly they are. And after spending a short time with them I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the energy and innovation with which they lived their lives on the farm. They designed tractor implements and “MacGyvered” them into existence with totally original parts. They converted a tractor to run on electricity. Besides all the delicious kale, cauliflower, and eggplant I recognized from our shelves at the Co-op, they are pioneering new crops like ginger, turmeric, and jicama; tropical treasures you’re not likely to find anywhere else in Whatcom County. During the tour I was constantly surprised by the novelty of their farm.
At the end of my visit I asked Sküter what he liked most about his job. “It’s hard to explain. People don’t make a lot of money. But with farming there is a drive you feel to move beyond what you thought was possible and it transforms your life. The reward is seeing what you can do.”
by Dave Straub, Cordata Produce Department
Since the 1980s Mike and Kimberly Finger have been growing organic produce at Cedarville Farm in Everson. Mike says the barn pictured above was used for a small dairy and guesses that it dates back to the 1940s or ’50s. “I imagine this was a classic gentleman’s/small family farm of the early- or mid-century that raised a few crops, livestock, and poultry,” said Mike.
Summertime is in full bloom and the produce department is the place to be. Right now is the apex of abundance in our local agricultural community and we all reap the benefits of the fresh selection. Besides being delicious, a trip to check out the Co-op’s plentiful summer produce selection can be a fun, engaging experience. Next time you’re picking out some fresh Farmer Direct fruit to munch on, or some crispy locally grown greens for your dinner salad, think about how you’re participating in our rich local history.
When the first homesteaders arrived in Whatcom and Skagit counties they discovered a fertile land teeming with biodiversity. The resourceful Coastal Salish Indians subsisted largely on the bounty of their environment by fishing, hunting, and foraging, leaving the land mostly uncultivated. Therefore, those first courageous farmers, equipped with their wits and a few old tools, broke virgin soil and began to prosper. Immigrants from the Old and New Worlds and others seeking new land during the Dust Bowl were all looking for a fresh start and found a veritable Eden.
“agriculture is thriving in our verdant corner of the world”
Generations later, agriculture is thriving in our verdant corner of the world and many of the local organic farmers today are descended directly from those men and women who came here long ago. Even those without an ancestral claim still possess the same spirit to work hard and be responsible stewards of this land. It is a local heritage we are proud of at the Co-op and we in the produce department are excited to be a part of it.
One of the reasons I love my job is that I get to work in an ever-changing landscape of bright nourishing colors. There is always something new to eat and learn about. In fact, the produce department houses from 200 to 300 different items at any given time. Because of this, it can be a daunting place with its constantly shifting supply and strange lexicon of certifications and symbols. Luckily, there is a helpful staff on hand who are enthusiastic about produce and agriculture. Between the Downtown and Cordata stores there are 17 members of the produce team with more than 100 cumulative years of experience! (A quarter of these years belong to the lovely Jill Brubaker alone, woot!) And that is only counting years spent working at the Co-op. Many members of our team previously worked in local agriculture, are gardening hobbyists, and are accomplished cooks. Feel free to chat with one of us about any of your produce-related questions. There are still a few first-years learning the ropes, but don’t doubt their willingness and ability to help.
“the produce department houses from 200 to 300 different items at any given time”
If you choose to fly solo on your produce journey, let me illuminate some of the signposts which will help guide your decisions along the way.
USDA Certified Organic—In produce the easiest way to tell if an item is organic or conventional is to look at the color of the price sign. All organic items have green signs, while orange denotes conventional. White and red Co-op Essentials signs indicate sale items and will be clearly labeled organic or conventional. When in doubt, simply ask a nearby clerk.
Many people consider “organic” the most important thing to look for when buying produce. It means there was no sewage, irradiation, genetically modified organisms, chemical fertilizers, or chemical pesticides used in the farming and processing of the food item. Also, it was not exposed to any contaminates along the way. This means the whole food system, from seed to our shelves, has been declared organic by a third-party certifier. Yes, even our produce departments have been certified organic!
Besides being good for your health, people choose organic because it’s socially and environmentally good for our community. It is believed that unlike the destructive practices of factory-scale conventional farms, organic farming improves soil and water quality, improves biodiversity and pollinator health, reduces toxic chemical exposure, and is even good for the economy. Organic farms are interested in functioning holistically within their environment, and that’s good for everyone.
Transitional—When a conventional farm wants to become a certified organic farm they must first use organic practices for three years before they can be officially certified. Produce labeled “Transitional” was grown with organic methods, and we hope you will join us in supporting transitional farms while they strive to meet USDA Certified Organic standards.
Local—To the best of our ability we highlight the origin of each item, whether it’s a country, Washington state, or a farm down the road. Items labeled “Local” originated in Whatcom, Skagit, or Island counties. When you buy local you are guaranteeing the freshness of your food. You are buying from your hardworking neighbors and investing in your local economy. Next time you’re in, check out the “What’s Local Now” display for a full rundown of local farms and the produce they offer.
Farmer Direct—Farmer Direct produce is grown in Washington state (outside of Whatcom, Skagit, and Island counties) and harvested, packed, and delivered directly to the Co-op by the people who farm it. This minimizes the travel time and maximizes how long fruit can ripen on the tree. So when you sink your teeth into a Farmer Direct peach this summer, it will be the juiciest and most flavorful peach possible.
Now you are equipped with the tools to fully enjoy your adventures in produce. I truly believe our dynamic corner of the world is the best place to enjoy nature’s bounty and right now it’s at its most delicious. Remember to play hard this summer, and when you get hungry visit the Co-op produce department and experience all we have to offer.