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A Season of Gratitude by Bridgette and Audra

*Originally published on November 21, 2012

I first met Audra during the Neptune exhibit held here in Seattle this past September.  She was one of the many photographers whose photo was featured.  Besides having a personal account on Instagram  [ @poodleheart ] she also manages her Rooted In The Valley account [ @rootedinthevalley ] where she shows us the finest produce grown here in Washington State and gives us a behind the scenes look at the local farmers markets.

Just last month we organized an Instagramers Seattle meet-up over at Oxbow Farm for their HoeDown and Pumpkin Patch Party – a celebration of fall harvest.  It was a wonderful event for all ages and both families near and far came together to welcome the season.

My son and I spent a few hours on the farm.  We went on the hayride, participated in the arts and crafts and even ate some Molly Moon ice-cream – a BIG hit for all the kiddos.  Despite the rain, everyone was enjoying themselves and the children were splashing along with their rain gear, covered in mud.

It wasn’t until I got home and looked at my pictures that I realized that without even thinking about it, I had made a new friend.  And, even though we didn’t get a chance to talk much I was still appreciative of her warm welcome and her ability to make me feel at home.  It was then that I was thankful to have met Audra and so grateful to be here in Washington.  The people and the land are what make our home special and if it weren’t for this mobile community none of this would be a reality.

So, for this season I am thankful for all the people I have met and for their kindness.  Photography has opened up a whole new world to me and quite frankly, this is what speaks to me.  People. Relationships.  Community.  A genuine, heartfelt feeling amongst the people that I have met.

Bridgette

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I have always loved photography for its ability to permanently capture the beauty that exists, sometimes fleetingly, in the world around us. The first farmers market picture I took was of the gorgeous Easter Egg radishes that grace the cover of my book, Rooted In The Valley – The Art and Color of the Snoqualmie Valley Farmers Markets.  It was in that moment that I realized that the farmers market was an art gallery all of its own – with sights, sounds, and smells, that tantalize the senses.

While spending time with the people who come to the farmers market, my experience has grown deeper.  I met the first woman organic farmer in the Snoqualmie Valley and learned about her struggles and her commitment. I talked with the Hmong farmers whose sense of pride is derived from the beautiful flowers and vegetables they produce. I drank cider with a fifth generation apple grower who measures the seasons by the turn of a leaf and the shape of a flower. I bought honey from the artisan beekeeper who describes her hives with such care and love, if you didn’t know any better, you would think she was talking about her children.  As I heard the stories, I began to discover a circle of community and gratitude that is unique to our everyday lives of hustle and bustle.

The lives of the farmers and their interns become intertwined during the growing season; working long hours and long days together.  Their community and shared gratitude for the earth is palpable.  When you see them, you want to throw on a pair of boots, grab a shovel, and join in on the fun.

Produce is harvested and then taken to market where smiling customers connect with the farmers who have grown their food, and the farmers are valued for the hard work they do.  Vendors barter with other vendors in trade – vegetables for bread, jam for soap.  All of them connecting over their shared love of fresh, nutritious food, and creating a vibrant meeting place. The happy customers then take the farmers’ bounty home to prepare it for their family and friends—extended the circle of community to those at their table. As my friend and Oxbow farmer, Sarah, says, “Markets are a panacea for our modern diet of junk food and isolations – doctors should prescribe them!”

So perhaps without knowing it, the farmers are doing more than just growing vegetables, they are building a culture of gratitude and of community.  Gratitude that extends beyond the holiday season—a community experience that begins at the farmers market and becomes a way of life in our neighborhoods. Or, maybe, that has been their intention all along.

Since that day last summer, I have continued to take pictures at the market; at farms and farm stands along country roads.  I have tried to find new ways to help tell the stories about our local farmers and the abundance they provide. This year, I partnered with Oxbow Farm & Education Center to create several educational and community events, the Spring SowDown and the Fall HoeDown.  These events were designed to bookend the season; to mark the first seeds going into the soil and their culmination of their lifecycle in a celebration of harvest.  I also designed an online project that helps promote CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) cooking by connecting farms with local food bloggers and chefs.

So in this season of Thanksgiving, I am full of gratitude for those farmers and artisans who bring their ‘art’ for me to feast upon with my eyes, to permanently capture their beauty, and then to take home that beauty and bounty to feed my family—completing the circling of community.

Audra

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Delicata Squash stuffed with Lacinato Kale and Sausage by Audra 
My intention was to use as many ingredients as possible from the market.  I tried to create a true market-to-table meal.   Thank you to Oxbow Farm, Sea Breeze Farm & La Boucherie and Calf & Kid for providing the gorgeous ingredients

Ingredients:
1 Medium Delicata Squash, halved and seeded
(seeds reserved)
Olive Oil
2 Cloves of Garlic sliced in half
2 links or ½ lb of Apple Sausage – any sausage can be used.
1 Med Leek halved and sliced
1 bunch of Lacinato kale – pulled from stem and chopped
Salt to taste
Rosemary {from my garden}
¼ cup grated mild cheese {optional}

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Use parchment paper or aluminum foil on baking sheet to make for a quicker clean up.  Place halved and seeded squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with a touch of olive oil and season with salt and rosemary. Slice the garlic in half and place in the cavity.
{Tip} I also put the seeds, with the squash ‘guts’ drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, right on the pan and roast it along side the squash.  There is no need to wash and dry your squash seeds.  The squashy goodness makes those seeds super tasty.
Roast in a preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes. While squash is roasting, prepare filling. In a medium sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped leeks and sausage, cooking until sausage is no longer pink and cooked through and leeks are soft about 10 minutes.
Add the chopped kale, give a good stir and then cover pan with a lid for 3-5 minutes.  Stir a few times, until kale is starting to wilt and most of the moisture has evaporated. Remove filling from the stove and let cool 10 minutes.
Your squash should be just starting to brown.  At this point your seeds may be toasty brown, but I really like them to be so caramelized that they are almost black.  So I removed the squash from the baking sheet and put the seeds back in for a few minutes. Remove the garlic and discard if you like.  If you opt to use the cheese in the filling, stir it in now. Adjust seasoning if necessary and spoon into the squash.
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes until filling is heated through and squash is completely cooked. Remove from oven and enjoy as a meal or hearty side dish.  And use your squash seeds as a snack or toss them in your salad.   Feel free to take creative license with this recipe, add rice to the mixture, or top with Parmesan and breadcrumbs, add a sautéed apple in the filling.  Enjoy the process of cooking and making the recipe your own!



 

Purchase Audra’s book, Rooted in the Valley, via Blurb.   Please note that a portion of the proceeds go to benefit the Duvall and Carnation Farmers Markets.