Friday, January 15, 2010

40 farms, 201 Recipes and Countless Photo Rejects

Name droppers are so annoying, and now I've become one. After indexing all the people, farms and small towns, I realized every other page contained a farmer or farm name. These farm names were tucked in profiles, recipe headers and produce descriptions. Just how many farmers had I mentioned in 259 pages?

Twenty-one farm profiles, 40 farms mentioned, 201 recipes and a Northwest produce guide with 63 vegetables and 26 fruits. When I started this project, I'd wanted to create a cookbook with multiple uses. Some might like the recipes, some the profiles but the produce descriptions are something a person could refer to endlessly.

I also wanted this to be a book about farms and food not slick food photos. The publisher requested 50. I agreed before I bought a decent camera. I quickly learned, a good photograph wasn't just about clicking shutters, and when it came to getting 50 photos accepted, I begged and borrowed from farmers, beekeepers and friends for the rest. Luckily people came through and saved me.

Some of the "rejects" didn't make the final cut. I'll show you just a few.

The picture above was taken last winter near Skagit River, on the north side of Mount Vernon when the river had reached the top of its banks. I thought it was perfect at the time, now it looks lonely, a little sad.

This one below was cut when one editor thought too many dogs were in one chapter. Suzy Fry's dog, Zeus, made it in. But perhaps Buzz, this farm dog from Rent's Due Ranch on a giant compost pile wasn't exactly fodder for a cookbook.

Check out all the brown dirt behind Buzz--it's finished organic compost--the secret of Rent's Due Ranch's awesome produce. What I wouldn't give for just one truckload of this compost for my garden. Just gazing at this compost pile gets me thinking about the giant heads of cauliflower, crunchy romaine and succulent blueberries that show up from Rent's Due Ranch at the University District Market in the summer.

Another reject was this big bin at Rent's Due Ranch. The farm name looks like it's stamped over another farm's name. I love it because farmers make use of everything. The day I visited the farm, JoanE was braiding garlic to sell at the market and they were waiting for a produce pick up from PCC Natural Markets. JoanE told me PCC picks-up produce from them three a week during the summer.

This version of my book also includes Oregon farms and I drove to southern Oregon twice in the summer of 2008. What a kick it was just visiting farmers markets, sampling produce, looking for farmers to profile.

On the second trip, I visited Whistling Duck Farm near Grant's Pass. I found the farm from the Ashland Co-op produce department, and I met Mary Alionis at the Medford farmers' market. Vince and Mary Alionis partner with their neighbor Dr. Watson whose family took up beekeeping as a hobby. The bees spend time at Whistling Duck Farm, boosting the berry harvest in the summer. What's the beehive photo missing? A few bees maybe? I do think Josh Nettlebeck of Tahuya River Apiaries had better bee photos and I'm glad his were included.

Finally, these succulent huckleberries were also rejects. I recall standing in line for these and a very pregnant woman was in front of me. We traded stories, laughed, and both bought extra berries that day.

What inspires your photography?

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