Taste Fresh Spring's Best at Your Local Farmers Market

By David Conklin

By David Conklin

Last Saturday the first of the asparagus grown by SpringRain Farm and Orchard made it to market. Rhubarb, rabb, purple-sprouting broccoli, salad greens, leeks, carrots, beets, potatoes, fresh herbs, shiitake mushrooms, eggs, artisan cow and goat's milk cheese, pasture raised meat, and more are abundant and in season at the Port Townsend Farmers Market.

These precious, sunny spring days almost beg us to eat dinner outside, spread a blanket on the grass and enjoy the tastes of the season. Can you hear the first of the asparagus calling you to market? If you make it to market early, grab some asparagus. If you miss the asparagus, rabb is similarly tender and a great addition to a warm salad.

Warm salad? While there is still a chill in the air but the days are brilliantly sunny, it is the perfect time to combine raw and cooked veggies for a spring feast. On a bed of fresh salad greens, try adding baked asparagus or rabb, roasted herbed potatoes, soft goat cheese, a hard boiled egg or baked salmon.
Voilà, you have a warm salad!

Baked Asparagus

Fresh asparagus
Olive oil or another cooking oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: fresh garlic and/or other fresh herbs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus or rabb. Place the asparagus/rabb on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then toss to coat the asparagus/rabb completely. Spread the asparagus/rabb in a single layer and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Add garlic and fresh herbs as desired. Roast the asparagus for 25 minutes or until tender but still crisp. Enjoy as a side dish or on top of a salad.

VegRx Clarification

I am thrilled with the level of interest in our new fruit and vegetable prescription program, VegRx. Based on the number of phone calls received by Jefferson Healthcare and the great questions about the program at the Market Info Booth, it is clear that our community is ready for a program that responds to local food insecurity with a monthly prescription redeemable for nutritious, locally grown fruit and vegetables.

An important point of clarification is that JCFM, Jefferson Healthcare and the Food Co-op are in a trial phase with the VegRx program. This market season, we are working with a single team of provider champions who are able to prescribe VegRx. The Jefferson Healthcare Orca Pod, Drs. Mattern, Parker, Harris and PA Sarah Irick, can prescribe VegRx. The screening for need will happen during routine well-child check-ups. Proof of income status is not required.

Nationally, basic food assistance, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/EBT, formerly food stamps) and the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Assistance Programs (FMNP) are in a precarious state. The proposed 2019 Farm Bill if passed would cut SNAP by more than $213 billion over the next ten years, nearly 30%. It also calls for the elimination of WIC and Senior FMNP. If passed, the majority of households receiving SNAP would see reductions to their food assistance funds. At the same time, SNAP eligibility changes would cause at least 4 million people to loose their food benefits altogether. More than $260 billion in food purchasing benefits would be moved from individual households to the government. Instead of letting households that receive more than $90 a month continue to use their SNAP benefit to buy food at their local grocery store, the USDA would use about 20% of all remaining SNAP benefits, or $130 billion over ten years, to give qualifying households a box of non-perishable food products. If passed budget cuts would affect some 34 million people in 2019 — almost 90% of SNAP participants. Here in Jefferson County, these cuts would impact some 4,400 people who receive SNAP.

Budget cuts would also reduce the USDA budget for farm programs by some 25%, especially in the areas of crop insurance and conservation programs. Additionally, it would eliminate value-added producer grants, which have helped local farms including SpringRain Farm and Orchard and Finnriver Farm and Cidery with one-time investment for the development of infrastructure for value added food production. Read more here, here and here.

If the proposed budget is passed, reductions to USDA funding for basic food assistance may affect the amount of matching funds JCFM has available through our Fresh Bucks program. USDA funded Fresh Bucks are given to SNAP/EBT shoppers at the Port Townsend and Chimacum Farmers Markets as well as at farmers markets in Kitsap, Clallam, and Mason counties, when farmers market shoppers use their SNAP/EBT card to purchase food.

Regardless of the national budget, JCFM is committed to supporting locally grown food access through our Gimme5 program this and in future years. Local individuals and businesses fund Gimme5 and VegRx.

As grant and community support allows, JCFM hopes to grow the number of Jefferson Healthcare clinicians who are able to prescribe VegRx next season as well as the number of people served by this program. This trial period will give us an opportunity to modify the program for the best future success, begin to identify the level of community need, and fundraise to expand the program next season.

Community support is critical to the future of programs like VegRx and Gimme5. While we depend on congressional representatives to uphold programs like SNAP and FMNP, it is up to us-- you and me, our community-- to sustain and grow services like VegRx and Gimme5. Need for these programs may be even grater next and in future years, depending on our national budget outcome.

Contact Market Director, Amanda Milholland, with your VegRx questions or to make a donation to support community access to nutritious, locally grown food.

See you at the Market! ~ Amanda

Upcoming Events

  • Saturdays Weekly, 9am-2pm Port Townsend Farmers Market, Tyler Street
  • April 21, 10am-1:45pm Homemade Music at the Port Townsend Farmers Market
  • May 26th, 9am-3pm, Artisan Food Festival at the Port Townsend Farmers Market: 70+ local farm, artisan food and arts vendors; chef demonstrations; raw and prepared shellfish by Johnson & Gunstone Shellfish, cheese and wine tasting with Mt. Townsend Creamery and Port Townsend Vineyards; kid's activities; more!
  • June 3rd, 10am-2pm, Chimacum Farmers Market Opening and the first day of the Power of Produce (POP) Club. Stay tuned for more information about our new weekly kids club at the Port Townsend Wednesday and Chimacum Farmers Markets.
  • June 6th, 2-6pm, Port Townsend Wednesday Farmers Market Opening this season at the Haines Place Park and Ride  

From Our Vendors

Red Dog Farm is bringing tomato and basil starts this Saturday! Additionally, we will have 60 varieties of other vegetable, flower and herb starts to fill your garden. The tulip parade continues with some of the most popular varieties- flaming parrot, salmon parrot and red peony types, plus a wide array of colors, shapes and sizes. For produce- greens and roots are the highlights for this perfect salad season.