Chaos reigns in Washington, D.C. The national economy is struggling and in many ways our federal government seems more dysfunctional by the day. Large multinational corporations control more of our food supply than ever before while the price of fuel and food transport is soaring. It seems there has never been a more important time to step up as individuals and support our local economy. Rather than bickering about a national debate over which we have no real control, let’s make a difference with something we can control: becoming a part of the “local food web.”
We are taught in school about the food web as “the description of feeding relationships among species in an ecological community.” But what if we apply the food web concept to our local community? Several prominent peninsula farmers and food producers are working creatively and collaboratively to do just that. They are effectively creating a local food web which both strengthens their own efforts and, as it grows, improves accessibility to local food for everyone.
Examples of the local food web are exciting! The Whiskey Hill Goat Dairy in Port Townsend produces raw goat’s milk, cheese and goat’s milk soap. While most of farmer Diana Dyer’s cheeses consist of goat’s milk produced from her own flock, Dyer also contracts with the Dungeness Valley Creamery in Sequim for enough cow’s milk to produce several additional cheeses. This diversification is important to the success of both farms: Whiskey Hill has more products with a broader appeal and the Dungeness Valley Creamery has a steady and dependable wholesale account.
Nash’s Organic Produce collaborates both with other local producers and with important local institutions to improve accessibility and strengthen the local food web.
For example, Midori Farm in Port Townsend contracts with Nash’s to grow hundreds of pounds of cabbage each season for its organic krauts and kimchi. For Nash’s, this is a steady and dependable wholesale account which should grow over time; a small but vital “piece of the puzzle” for the business.
For Midori Farm, this relationship ensures a solid and reliable supply of quality product that will allow increased production and improved efficiencies. Both local producers strengthen their financial positions and their businesses by working together.
On the institutional level, Nash’s works with peninsula hospitals and schools to make local food more accessible. Nash’s runs a weekly market at, and delivers farm-share boxes to, Olympic Medical Center and is developing a similar new relationship with Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton. Efforts with local school districts also have begun to pay off, as Nash’s beets and carrots now appear on school lunch plates in both Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Relationships in the local food web are as varied as the types of food we eat. Grapes and berries grown at Graysmarsh Farm in Sequim are used to make wines at Port Angeles’ Harbinger Winery. The Mount Townsend Creamery in Port Townsend makes all its cheeses from milk produced at Maple View Dairy Farm in Sequim. Grain grown in Dungeness by Nash’s is milled locally at the Bell Street Bakery in Sequim and used in a selection of the bakery’s breads.
It would seem that this local food web is thriving and to some extent it is. These relationships among local producers are about more than just better business; they also facilitate the flow of ideas and creativity.
The camaraderie and mutual enthusiasm that grows as a result of these collaborations is as vital to the producers as their finished products.
The web isn’t complete, though, without the end consumer. The North Olympic Peninsula is home to about 100,000 people; just imagine what a difference each person could make in his or her community by purchasing one locally produced food item every week. Consider forgoing one latte each week and spending the extra $3 on locally raised, pastured meat instead of factory farmed, grain-fed meat. That same skipped latte the following week would be more than enough to get you a beautiful head of fresh, crisp lettuce planted and harvested by a trustworthy local farmer. Just like that, you’re part of the economic solution and an integral part of the local food web. A toast to your success: Eat well and be well!