So farming friend called me up Wednesday night and inquired about the state of my chest freezer. Was there, perhaps, room in there for 50 pounds of salmon filets? See, she runs a monthly on-farm market during the winter season when the local farmer's markets don't operate. She invites a few choice vendors to show up and sell their goods, but also will sell the products of a few other local vendors. One of those products is wild caught Alaskan sockeye salmon. The couple that sells this delectable treat maintains a fishing license and a fishing boat in Alaska, and that's how they spend their summers. The quality is outstanding, and as carbon footprints go for fish, this is pretty light on the earth.
So farming friend needed another couple cases of the filets to be ready for her on-farm market this weekend. But she has a day job, and no one was going to be at her farm yesterday to take delivery. So she asked me and the salmon lady if it could be dropped by our place in the course of her delivery rounds. No problem for me: I was around and having dinner with farming friend that night, so my freezer space wouldn't be tied up long. No problem for salmon lady as we live closer to the day's other stops than farming friend does.
I spent between 5 and 10 minutes chatting with salmon lady and helping her pack 50 pounds of salmon into our freezer and then some into a cooler with ice packs. That evening I put the fish back in the boxes and took it with me when I went to dinner at farming friend's house. It was nothing. But salmon lady was so appreciative - as if I were doing her a big favor - that she offered me a free fillet. Now, I'm already on record as never saying no to handouts. You can believe I didn't turning down ethically fished wild Alaskan salmon that sells for $12.75 per pound. Needless to say, I was thrilled.
Just for Ali, a bonus picture of the cats with free mushroom bags
But the bounty didn't end there. When I got to farming friend's house for dinner, the first topic of conversation after getting the salmon in her freezer was all the mushroom bags she'd gotten from local mushroom producers. Like battery egg facilities that kill "retirement age" laying hens, (who are still capable of years of egg-laying) because their production is no longer optimal, mushroom farmers keep mushroom substrate only through the first few and most abundant flushes of mushroom production. Of course, there's no cruelty involved in either packing bags of inoculated sawdust as close together as possible, nor in getting rid of them as soon as they pass a peak of production. Nonetheless, farming friend had been given several large bags of sawdust inoculated with oyster mushroom spores. And she wanted to know if I wanted a couple of them. What did I say? (Altogether now; say it with me:) "Sure! Thank you!"
I don't want to create the impression that people chuck free food at me on a daily basis, but similar things have happened more than a few times since I've gotten to know my local farmers and producers on a personal basis. Free eggs, free bones to make stock, free pork jowls, the loan of useful and expensive tools, and now enough free salmon for four modest portions and a decent chance at a small crop of oyster mushrooms. Obviously, I also just like to know where my food comes from, even when I pay a fair price for it. But there really are multiple advantages to getting to know your farmers.
Of course, I try to be open handed too. I've arranged to loan our beater pickup truck this weekend to a young Agricultural Extension agent who needs to haul some horse manure for her own garden. And our broadfork will be loaned out this spring too. Farming friend got her vermicomposting system going with some red wiggler worms from our bins, and I plan to take containers of worms to the last meeting of my soils class next week to get some fellow students started on vermicomposting as well. It seems to me that farmers and other sustainability minded folks are far more open to bartering, and interested in making just a little more effort to share resources, and ensuring that nothing goes to waste. That's a good group of people to know and be a part of.