Life. That’s what has happened for the past 4 months. Busy-ness. That’s how we roll in Port Townsend. Fundraisers, dance parties, fundraiser dance parties, volunteer projects, short-term house-sitting jobs, restaurant work, complaining about the weather and trying to sneak a or two into the mix are all some of the excuses I’ve used to neglect this portion of my life. Those, and the fact that there isn’t really a portion of my life that is farming right now (which was the original purpose of this blog.) But I’ve been doing plenty of gardening, personal and community, and finally feel rested and ready to reinstate relating to you my reflections on different representations of farming.
This is my community garden.
Known as Wayward Farm Community Garden, it is one of more than 25 community gardens that have emerged in Port Townsend’s community at large of 8,000. In the past few years the initiative to create community food security (mainly influenced by this grassroots collective) has simultaneously raised people’s awareness about what a secure food economy and community looks like (thus, all the community gardens and the surge of support the Jefferson County Farmer’s Market has seen the past few years) and raised the bar on relationships between the growers and the eaters (our market was voted the Best Farmers’ Market in Washington state!)
Statistics show that Jefferson County is the county with the highest percentage of its food dollars going to local food. Folks, that number is a resounding 4%. Of all the counties in Washington state, none are spending more than 4% of their food-buying power to support local growers and cottage-industry entrepreneurs.
Now one caveat to take into consideration (especially in Port Townsend)
is the amount of community gardens, where money isn’t being used to buy food to eat, but rather to purchase seed, fertilizer and tools to grow our own food. Those are dollars not accounted for that contribute just as much – if not more – to local food security. Having an abundance of small farmers and local food producers is a great thing to support, but taking the growing power into your own hands, working your own plot of soil and harvesting a bounty you helped to create, that’s the definition of securing your own food.
And even with the year we’ve had here in the northwest corner of the country (until about two weeks ago our temperatures were topping out in the low 60’s and it has been recognized that this has been the chilliest, wettest year on record since weather records have been kept starting in the 1950’s!) the production capabilities of the earth here are bountiful.
Eating locally means kale, broccoli, peas, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, arugula, cilantro, lettuce, Asian greens, Swiss chard, potatoes, blueberries, blackberries, string beans, onions, garlic, strawberries, huckleberries, thimbleberries, salmonberries, spinach, zucchini, raspberries, orach, cabbage, plums, apples, pears, celery, salad burnet, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, chives, artichokes, and even grains like spelt, triticale, rye, wheat and quinoa. It also means raw Jersey milk (legal for sale in Washington), artisan cow and goat cheese, pastured lamb and beef, free-range chicken and ducks (and their eggs), beet, carrot and cucumber pickles, jam, hard cider and wine. (If you have a greenhouse, or a cold frame for starts, it can also mean tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil.)
I got lucky and found myself in a community garden that has been taken care of by its members. They have amended the soil, compost religiously, established some wonderful
rows of perennial fruits (raspberries, strawberries, currants, blueberries and thornless blackberries) and play well together. We consist of a landscaper, a dental assistant, a home-designing consultant, a computer whiz, a fiber artist, a full-time mom and her insect- and dump truck-loving 6 year old, a couple of retirees, a rowing club member and me. Since we began turning under the winter cover crops back in April, we have seen at least 2 sowings come to bear in each of the 7 beds dedicated to annual veggies, with a third promising time to harvest before winter cover crops will again be sown.
We work together on Sunday afternoons and often bump into each other during the week as we stop by to harvest our suppers. We have potlucked together a few times and some of us have found common interests bringing us together outside the parameters of the garden. But mostly we all know that our reasons for joining a community garden, whether for human interaction, to learn about growing food, to celebrate good food or just to have a chance to work outside for a while, unite us when we probably wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise.