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November 7, 2013 at 6:04 AM

Assembling ingredients for a local Thanksgiving

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Locally grown ingredients seem like a logical match for a harvest festival.

But when Melissa Borsting decided a few years ago to try for an all-local Thanksgiving dinner from her North Bend home, it was harder to assemble than she would have imagined.

Cranberries? We grow lots of them in Washington state. But “none of (the farmers), I think, need any kind of retail outlet, because they all sell to Ocean Spray!” she said. A locally raised turkey — in the off chance you could find one this time of year– could easily run $75, and wouldn’t be very profitable for the farmer even at that. Most farmers markets have closed (with a few notable Seattle-area holdouts, including Ballard, Broadway, University District, and West Seattle. Pike Place Market also runs year-round.)

Connecting with farmer after farmer, though, Borsting did it — and then did it again and again. “The produce was fairly easy, but the butter and the different nuts and cherries and whatever — it spiraled into, I’m doing all this work, what if I tried to share this with other people?” she said. She put the word out that she would get the ingredients together, and another 30 people joined in. This year, friend Genevieve Boyles stepped in to help keep the project going, after purchasing a box last year. “Who knew we had cranberry bogs in Washington? Hazelnut farms? Heirloom grain farms?” she said.

Their Eat Local Network $95 Thanksgiving Box includes vegetables, fruits, grains, and other ingredients from farms within 125 miles, with pickup sites in Carnation and in Seattle. (Turkeys, which cost extra, are already sold out for this year.) They’ve included recipes (here’s a link to last year’s), including some used with permission from Tom Douglas.

“It was a little bit of chicken and egg at first,” figuring out what was available versus what recipes people would expect, Borsting said. For instance, “my family’s traditional stuffing had celery in it, which is not always easy to find” outside of the grocery store.

Cranberries, the original bane of the project, are now sourced from Starvation Alley, a 10-acre farm on the Long Beach Peninsula whose owners are working towards becoming the state’s first certified organic cranberry farm.

The project changed more than the holiday table for Borsting — a forest ecology worker when the project began, now she manages the Carnation farmers market, where it’s a lot easier for her to make connections with area farmers.

Still, “it’s a fun piece of the holiday for me, partly because it’s Thanksgiving, that’s a special time for me for family and supporting community — the bigger definitions of family.”

Looking for just a few ingredients for a local Thanksgiving?

Here’s a story I did several years back on finding local ingredients, much of which still holds true. At that point you could identify Washington-packed cranberries on the Ocean Spray label.

Whole Foods Markets will hold a “Taste of Thanksgiving” event from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, in stores in the greater Seattle area. Their many local options include Skagit Fresh Cider and produce from farmers like Willie Greens. Local markets like PCC Natural Foods, Metropolitan Market, Town & Country markets and Thriftway can generally point you to lots of locally grown ingredients, and the large national chains have some too. Puget Sound Fresh has a great list of farmers markets throughout the region.

Would you go out of your way to include a locally grown ingredient on the Thanksgiving table? I’m lucky in that I still have some Brussels sprouts growing in my garden.

Note: Updated to correct the date of Whole Foods event. It is Nov. 7.

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