Shopping at Farmers Markets pretty regularly for several years now, I feel this camaraderie with the farmers that I admit is a bit of a stretch since we don’t actually know each other. I like to think that we have a symbiotic and friendly relationship anyway. I want to high-five, say thanks. And Billy’s organic produce (Billy’s Gardens) is one of the best.
My own roots might have influenced this reverence. My grandfather and father were farmers and ranchers in eastern Washington. I observed their hard work, but little did I understand the intellectual conviction, and that faith and imagination were also required, along with hardcore agricultural, scientific and climatological expertise . . . political and marketing savvy . . . and what else?
Billy’s an organic farmer from Tonasket in northeastern Washington’s Okanogan County. Each week he delivers an assortment of succulent vine-ripened tomatoes to Farmers Markets in the University District and West Seattle, plus some other great stuff, but the tomatoes take the cake. Get there early if you want cherry tomatoes. I missed mine this week, though he kindly gave me the last few, a handful. Piles of basil, the tomatoes, all kinds of peppers, these items seem to characterize his particular niche; there are strawberries in late spring, some rhubarb, eggplant, tomato plantings. Awesome salsa available in the summertime. He roasts his peppers right at the market in late summer.
Billy and his crew have come to feel like neighbors to some of us, which is true in the sense that Seattle is his home every weekend for much of the year now. Sometimes he has a minute to chat about, what else, tomatoes, his and ours. Different climates on the east and west sides of the mountain, still we have a lot in common when it comes to growing tomatoes and he’s shared his wisdom repeatedly through the years.
A couple of weeks ago he had a few moments to spare and we discussed the ups and downs of web site maintenance – his is down at the moment; he offered innovative ideas and encouragement about our MixedGreens blog.
Billy and his organic farming operation are featured in the film, GOOD FOOD, An intimate look at the growers of sustainable food in the Pacific Northwest, which premiered at SIFF this spring. So he’s in the movies, and in a sense gets a standing ovation every weekend. People line up to buy his food, wait patiently, leave smiling with bags of organic produce and return the next week for more. Applause is deafening. Thanks Billy.