Mr.: What are you up to today?
Me: Scoop and I are going to go pick up five Farmstr chickens.
Little Helping: Are we going to kill them?
Me: (slightly taken aback) No. The farmer already did that, I'm pretty sure they will be frozen and ready to cook.
Under different circumstances I might be a little worried that my 4-year-old jumps straight from chickens to slaughter but in this context I was proud. He is learning that dinner comes from somewhere before the grocery store. I hope his question implies a respectful appreciation for life and the food chain. On the other hand, I have caught him smashing ants with rocks: learning is a process.
I think it would be wonderful to make regular visits to local farms to see where our food is grown. Last year The Little Helping and I took a trip to Three Sisters Ranch on Whidbey Island to pick up a 1/8 share of a cow. We spent several hours watching the cows and pigs that would eventually feed other customers. It was tremendously educational and we had a wonderful time but I'm grateful the journey isn’t part of my regular grocery shopping routine.
Thankfully, for those in the Puget Sound Region, there is Farmstr. The moment I heard about the company I was hooked. Farmstr was developed to allow producers and consumers a way to find each other quickly without a middle step -- farmers market, grocery store, etc. I'm not the only one who has embraced this sales model. Sellers are knocking on their door, the customer list is growing like spring greens. The rapid growth has caught the eye of both local and national media. Don't worry if you are not in the current market area, this is going to be big, really big.
The process in a nutshell: Producers upload an image and the details of their offering to the site then customers cruise around to see what tickles their fancy. In the mood for something sweet, you can buy honey by the jar or the gallon. If your taste is a little more exotic, head for the alpaca steaks (yes alpaca). Not ready to commit? Place a deposit on your holiday turkey or goose and you don't think about it again until November!
During previous visits to the site I have found an ever changing variety of seafood, a variety of meat from single portions to whole animals, fruit both fresh and frozen, and a new crop of seasonal vegetables seems to pop up every few weeks. So far everything I've found on Farmstr is grown or raised in the Pacific Northwest. In a very simple sense Farmstr is helping neighbors find each other. Founder Janelle Maiocco eloquently sums it up like this: "We are all about re-connecting folks with local food, their farmers, fishers and ranchers. We are all about food with unmatched quality, just harvested, sustainable - and we are all about helping Little Agriculture succeed!" I pretty much love that.
There are regular drop sites around the greater Seattle area. The predesignated sites help simplify the pick-up and delivery process and keep prices as low as possible. If there isn't one close enough to you to be convenient I would suggest two things: let Farmstr know through email or social media. Like any business they want to serve their customers so give them a wave. Secondly, check back regularly, the company is adding new drop sites as quickly as it can so you might find one pops up in your neighborhood.
Now back to the chickens. Scoop and I bopped down to Portage Bay Grange, near the University of Washington, and picked up our five chickens (plucked, gutted, and frozen - it was a bit of a relief). We didn't just grab and go but took a few moments to shake hands and chit-chat with Bradley from Windy N Ranch near Ellensburg. I thanked him for raising and bringing our food into the city. Turns out the ranch has public tours and he invited us to come out anytime. (I hope we make that happen this summer.) Our exchange was short but very sweet.
The organic pasture-raised chickens were similar in price to organic whole chickens at Costco but, in my opinion, their value is much greater. Farmstr provides an easy way to participate in our personal food supply chain unlike any other consumer model. I feel much more connected to this food. I know I will pay closer attention to the preparation details and eat the finished meals even more mindfully than usual. Buying directly from the producer through Farmstr or any other means is not necessarily healthier but, perhaps this is a more holistic way to eat.
Maybe one day our family will visit a farm and participate in the slaughter of our dinner. For now I am grateful to pick up our meat ready to cook.
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