Spring with Sea Breeze Farm
On Saturday, May 29, Slow Food Seattle held it's second spring farm event for chapter members on Vashon Island. Guests first met at La Boucherie, the showcase restaurant for Sea Breeze Farm products such as eggs, dairy and meat, and enjoyed a leisurely four-course lunch. Every course featured local, seasonal products including the memorable fromage de tete (head cheese) and house-made butter, Bill's bread, whole milk ricotta and herbs, savory egg tart over incredible garden greens, pork and lamb leg accompanied by braised vegetables, and last but not least, the chocolate mint gelato, made from fresh milk and mint, and frozen that morning. Sea Breeze Farm is a diverse, multi-species, "beyond organic", grass-based animal farm. Produced with a high level of care and respect for the land and animals, our lunch was both delicious and satisfying.
Following lunch, we formed a caravan and drove to a small U-pick farm. The fruit wasn't quite ready, but we stood and listened to farmer George Page talked about the egg operation in the orchard next to an old hen house. The chickens outside busily feeding on worms and other tidbits hiding in the green grass. We headed downhill by trail towards a fenced off, half-shady patch where about twenty young pigs were playing and eating together. As we approached, they all seemed to greet us from the other side of the fence. Amiable little beings, it was nice to see pigs living comfortably but protected from the hot sun. A little further down the path, we came to where the older pigs were kept. Similar situation, but these pigs were more interested in each other and lying around in cool mud to pay us much attention.
We headed back to our cars and followed each other to the main farm about 6 miles away. Overlooking the Puget Sound, the farm operates a small-scale dairy and wine cellar. George explained how the farm was primarily an egg and dairy farm, and meat was a by-product of production. As with many small farms, animals such as chickens, pigs and cows are part of a healthy cycle of production: cows provide milk, and chickens provide eggs but they also give fertilizer and help break down the cow patties. Pigs are excellent recyclers who feed on lots of scraps. A question was raised about what is done with male calfs since cow's must give birth in order to produce milk. Like most dairy operations, males have few opportunities for usefulness since they do not provide milk but they drink it. Sea Breeze does use males whenever breeding is necessary, and the farm offers a grass-fed veal, or "rose veal" which is red in color because it feeds on grass vs. the white flesh of confined, milk fed veal. No milk-fed veal is produced at Sea Breeze Farm, so the young male calfs experience some quality of life, however brief, before they are slaughtered. It is common on other farms that males are sold or left for feedlots if the farm cannot support their care. Eating dairy products directly provides products for the meat industry so choosing the most humanely raised dairy and meat as possible is not only good, clean and fair, but it is a responsible action.
Outside all day, many of us left with a little too much sun exposure. We departed well-fed and inspired towards the ferry back to West Seattle. We've had lovely warm weather two years in a row for our spring farm events, so please note for next spring: bring sunscreen or at least a wide brimmed hat!
We thank George Page for hosting Slow Food Seattle this year and we can't wait to get back.