It’s no secret that I love my CSA and my local farmers markets. I’m not alone. The local food movement is gaining popularity almost everywhere. The National Restaurant Association just released their “What’s Hot” Chef’s Survey and the #1 item on their hot list? Local produce! I feel fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest where this movement is going strong. Not only are we Buying Local, but we’re making a conscious choice to support local farmers and increasingly, to reduce the amount of fossil fuel used in the beloved organic foods we grow and eat. This isn’t an easy process. No matter how sustainable your farming or home gardening practices are, or how much you try to work back into the land, unless you happen to live right down the road from a very diverse farm, or grow all of your own vegetables, you’ll still incur some fossil fuel costs when your produce is transported from the farm to you (whether or not that produce finds its way to a farmers market or a grocery store first).
An item’s Food Mile value is the number of miles that your food travels using oil- dependent methods such as truck, train, or airplane. The smallest number of food miles of any farm I’ve been able to find at my primary farmers’ markets (Ballard, the University District, and West Seattle) has been 11 miles–courtesy and bragging rights of Sea Breeze Farms on Vashon Island. Along with a few other Vashon farms, such as Sister Sage Herbs, their products travel the shortest distance here in the Seattle city limits.
Note: The Bainbridge Island and Vashon Island farmers markets have a variety of farms with a smaller number of food miles. The majority of the farms that attend these markets are located on the same island as the market, so the Food Mile budget is significantly less. If you are lucky enough to live on one of these islands, I hope that you make it a habit to Buy Local at your farmers markets.
I thought my 11 Food Mile milk, pork, and cream were pretty darn good (and they are, really), but then I met Dave Reid of the Sail Transport Network, Sustainable Ballard’s newest project. Dave and I met in the darkness of a November Sunday evening down at Ballard’s Shilshole Bay Marina. Eight hours earlier, Dave and his crew had set sail from Poulsbo with over 300 pounds of vegetables and raw honey tucked securely in the hold of his boat. With nothing save for wind and a little manual human power (and oars, of course), Dave and his crew brought the produce to STN’s happily awaiting trial subscribers.
Not only did Dave have to leave Poulsbo in the early morning darkness, but he first had to get TO Poulsbo (an 11/5 hour trip). So all in all, he spent his entire weekend on this trip. He’s an engineer by day, so this time invested should give you an idea about his immense dedication to this cause. Dave was eager to chat with me, and after a scant five minutes, I knew that he believed in this project with every ounce of his being. I was sold on the whole idea from the beginning, but talking with Dave made me want to hop on his boat and help out!
Dave carried back an incredible amount of produce for the beginning of November. His boat, Whisper, can hold up to 1500 pounds of produce and honey. He only transported 300 pounds on this trip, and that was still an impressive load. $40 bought you a generous 20-lb box or bag of potatoes, cabbage, onions, beets, peppers, and squash. Like some of my favorite CSAs, Dave and his team let people choose the vegetables that they wanted. Filling a 20-lb box or bag was no easy feat and everyone left with a lot of food. For $15, you could also take home a jar of raw honey. He and his team worked tirelessly filling bags, all the while chatting non-stop with me and their subscribers. It was a fun evening, despite the wind blowing strong.
But even with the boat using absolutely no fossil fuels in its journeys, subscribers still had to get their produce home. For many of them, this involved a car trip. However, Dave had one more trick up his sleeve.
Dave partnered with Segue from Frankentrikes. She has built a beautiful motorized tricycle with a bimini two-tiered canopy top that she uses to deliver produce to subscribers within a 4-mile radius of the marina. Her e-trike is absolutely gorgeous, and I urge you to check out her website for more information. She’s got a bit of a waiting list now, and her trikes aren’t cheap, but they can carry a great load and are fast enough to hold their own on local roads.
The Sail Transport Network is partnered with Sustainable Ballard and they are working on setting up regular deliveries for 2009. They’re expanding their sailing to Sequim for their next trip, and have partnered with some of my very favorite farms:
Soliton, the largest sailboat in the volunteer fleet, will arrive at the public dock on Sunday, January 4th from 10am – 12 pm. If you’re interested in signing up, you can send an e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org, or give them a call at 206-605-3628 before December 27th.
Many thanks to Dave Reid for taking the time to talk with me about the Sail Transport Network and even more thanks to Kathy Pelish, a good friend who introduced me to Dave and this fantastic, forward-looking project.
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