Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Look What the Stork Delivered!

When the package arrived, I took my time opening it. I was partly afraid it might not live up to what I'd expected and partly afraid of the amount of work I might have to do to promote it. Once I'd peeled off the brown paper wrapping, the cover picture totally won me over. Even my assistant was thrilled.

My kitchen assistant immediately gave the book four paws-up. But the truth is he was just buttering me up so I'd make a few recipes. After we cuddled with this new baby I flipped through the pages to get a good look. Timber Press really came through and did a great job.

The farmer profiles that I'd written brought back a flood of memories from my farm travels and farmer interviews in 2008. When I started my journey, an editor at Timber Press had suggested a profile of Ayers Creek Farm, in Gaston, Oregon, just a little south of Portland.

I hadn't heard of the farmer, Anthony Boutard , then, but apparently all of Portland already knew about Ayers Creek Farm because Anthony and his wife Carol have been supplying Portland chefs with great organic produce ever since Anthony and Carol started selling at the Hillsdale farmers' market in 2003. The Boutards grow amazing crops, focusing on quality over quantity. Ayers Creek has captured the attention of Oregon and Washington foodies and even well-know cookbook authors. (Check out Deborah Madison's essay about the Boutards in her newest book.)

Anthony told me he gets a lot of inspiration and ideas from agriculture texts from the 1800s. He told me that we don't give enough credit to farmers experiences in the past. Anthony also extensively researchs on the Internet for the perfect organic plant varieties to grow. And growing the best varieties pays off. Market shoppers love the quality and unique crops. Here is Anthony in his plum orchard.
The Boutards weren't the only farmers who brought amazing produce to markets. At the Corvallis farmers' market I discovered Denison Farms, an organic farm owned and farmed by Tom Denison and Elizabeth Kerle. Tom's family moved to Corvallis when Tom was in the 5th grade and Tom recalled wanting to be a farmer when he was in high school. Tom also researches vegetables and fruits varieties on the Internet to find the best varieties for the Northwest. On a busy farm day, Tom and Elizabeth took time out to share their farm's story and before I left, Tom gave me a basket of super sweet tomatoes.

If you visit the Corvallis farmers' market, check out Denison Farms booth.

At the First Alternative Co-op in Corvallis, I picked up information about Gathering Together Farm and suddenly recalled this was the farm name that farmer Nash Huber in Sequim, Washington had scrawled on a note for me when I'd asked him about Oregon farmers I might want to include.

Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, just west of Corvallis had a farm stand so that's where I headed, and once I got there, I was impressed. Farmers Sally Brewer and John Eveland's story spilled over into two profiles (one about the synergy of two farms working together and seed production, and one about farm restaurants.) Farmers' markets, CSA deliveries, farm store, restaurant, and seed processing right--one look at the cute farm store will make you wish you lived closer to this farm to visit on a regular basis.

I'd wanted to linger at this store, but I had to move on. In Ashland I visited the produce department of the food co-op where I found pictures of The Fry Family Farm and Whistling Duck Farm. I searched out both farmers at the Ashland and Medford farmers' markets. When I visited, Whistling Duck Farm, farmer Vince Alionis told me how growing conditions in southern Oregon are more like northern California than Portland or Seattle. "The land is like a jigsaw puzzle," he'd told me.

Every farmer in The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook has a different story to tell. I never tire of hearing these stories, but soon I'd gathered so many farm stories that the big puzzle was how to fit everyone I'd spoken to into one book. One early editor said just make it simple--one farm per profile, but I really wanted to include everyone I'd interviewed.

Check out the book to find out how I did it. I have to confess I had some help smoothing the rough edges. Timber Press had introduced me to the most perfect editor, Lorraine Anderson, whose first book was Cooking with Sunshine: The Complete Guide to Solar Cooking. Lorraine has edited lots of Timber Press books and she lives fairly close to some of the farmers and one season had even gotten Denison Farms CSA. How perfect is that?

But now marketing reality has hit me. This new phase of book writing is a whole different story, so to save my sanity and chronicle my efforts to get media and bookstore attention in this new flood of local food books, I've created a separate blog for my marketing adventures.

With this new blog, I'm hoping to make some sense of our hyper-rushed, plugged-in, interconnected world, where everybody has a brand waving on their own flagpole. Tips, tricks, strategies and links will hopefully help other authors just starting this journey with their books.

This Food Connections blog will continue on--because I've got lots more ideas and food connections are too delicious to give up. Besides my Kitchen Assistant is already waiting for my next recipe.

Check out Whistling Duck Farm's vibrant produce at the Medford or Ashland farmers' market.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations! THe book looks lovely and I can't WAIT to get my hands on it! It is RIGHT up my alley!

ddzeller said...

Thanks so much! I wish every region had a cookbook like this one with farmer profiles. It was fun visiting all the farms!