For a moment, just imagine…imagine it’s raspberry season and you go to your favorite farmer’s market or grocery store and there’s no fresh raspberries. Not only that, but also no raspberry pies, no jam, no raspberries on top of your creamy cheesecake. Now, imagine the same thing for peaches, blueberries, asparagus, apples, and our other crops grown in our state. This is reality for many Americans.
In Washington, you can walk into a grocery store on any given day and arrive at a well-stocked produce section with fruits and vegetables galore. There’s usually at least six types of apples, three colors of potatoes, three varieties of pears, plus fresh peas, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and other family favorites. And when cherry season hits, it’s a plethora of sweet goodness in by the binful! Melons of every shape and size fill the specialty section during harvest season, and sweet corn from farms less than 100 miles away bring an extra smile to our backyard BBQs. Because of the Columbia River Basin Project, Skagit River Valley, and irrigated farms throughout the state, we are able to grow more than 300 different crops that fill our fresh food shelves. Yes, we realize that in the colder months it’s produce grown by our neighbors from Canada or Mexico and South America, but for the majority of the year it’s mostly Washington grown produce. Fresh food from the farms in a convenient location that actually makes the weekly grocery run pleasant. Whether it's your local QFC or Red Apple in the greater Seattle area, or Harvest Foods on the east side, you can find a plethora of fresh produce while you’re also picking up laundry detergent.
Then you walk down the wine aisle and find nearly every type your palette craves, again, grown in our home state. Merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, Washington is hailed as the most exciting wine growing region in the world right now, and our store shelves show it! Washington is the second-largest wine producing state in the U.S. We claim more than 1,000 wineries throughout the Puget Sound and Columbia, Yakima and Lewis & Clark valleys.
As you make your way to the processed aisles, Washington grown food is still at your fingertips. We have a lot of national processors in our state because we’re able to grow a lot of the food they need. This means, the odds of picking up a Del Monte can of corn that was grown in our state is really good! Usually locally grown processed food is sent to local outlets first, so when you open a bag of Lay’s potato chips there’s a really good chance it was processed in the Frito Lay facility in Vancouver using Washington grown potatoes from the Columbia River Basin.
In the dairy aisle you’ll find Darigold galore featuring local milk from farmers within the state. You’ll also see pies from Cyrus O’Leary’s using local fruits and filling ingredients. Local hummus lines the shelves from chickpea farms in the Palouse. The bread aisle showcases Franz baked goods that use a flour mix of locally grown soft white wheat and other regional classes. In the meat section you find locally raised beef and chicken from farms just a short drive away.
When you hit the frozen section, the local connection continues. Many frozen mixed berry blends are made from Washington’s own red raspberries and blueberries. Just like the canned aisle, a lot of peas, carrots, and sweet corn are flash frozen by processors within a couple of hours of coming off Washington farms in the Columbia River Basin. A lot of frozen french fries and other potato products are processed in our state, and many of those finished bags quickly make it to our local shelves. (In fact, when you eat at many of our local fast food restaurants the fries are most likely Washington grown!).
Many of us have traveled around the U.S. and understand just how #lucky we are to live in a state that produces so much food. Most communities in the midwest, south and east don’t have access to locally grown food and they rely on Washington to feed their households. In addition to all the safe and affordable local food we have within easy access at our grocery stores, we also have local farmers markets and CSA’s to supply us. We are so #lucky to live in a state of plenty, and thank you farmers for keeping us fed.