A small garden adds significantly to the gardener's quality of life. Many small gardens and farms together produce a significant fraction of an area's vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits are mostly water, so the less trucking about of water that we do, the better.
Calorie crops are whole different problem. Calorie crops, the energy dense grains and legumes that provide a big chunk of our diet, are hard to find locally.
It was not always so. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Fourth Corner was exporting lumber, fish and coal. A lumberjack in full contact burns 6,000 calories a day, and it was mostly locally produced. We grew oats to feed the heavy horses, wheat and beans to feed the boys and barley and hops for beer to keep them smiling. Only the hops remain economically significant.
There is a resurgence of interest in growing calorie crops in Whatcom County. We have a trickier climate and shorter growing season than the grain growing areas of the plains, but that just means we need to pay special attention to variety selection. A number of local farmers are growing small patches of grains to trial different varieties. Currently, the closest place to just buy local grain is Nash's Organics (meet in Seattle for pick-up.) Nash is planting now, and if you are interested in bread wheat, soft pastry wheat, rye or oats, call Kia and express enthusiasm. The best way to get farmers to do they do best is to buy their stuff. Fairhaven Mill buys local soft white wheat for pastry flour. Look for it at our fine retailers in town.
Krista Rome conducted the Great Everson Bean Trials in 2008, where she grew many kinds of beans to see what worked. What worked best was the cannellini, a delicious white kidney bean with very good yield. Lois Garlick, widow of Jack Garlick, has graciously shared her husband's beans with the seed saving community. Jack Garlick's small white soup beans are a true local heirloom which he stewarded for decades.
Now to the cracker recipe. Warning: this may increase your popularity. While the second batch of crackers was baking, I noticed people on the sidewalk were slowing way down as they walked past my house. During the third batch, five people I had never met clustered on the sidewalk to hang out and shoot the breeze.
First, make a batch of sourdough starter (see earlier post.) Then take half the recipe and set it aside to make a loaf of bread. To the other half, add:
a quarter cup barley malt syrup or sugar
a quarter cup melted coconut oil, a fat pinch of salt
a quarter cup mixed seeds (I used what I had, sesame, fennel, onion and nigella.)
Stir it up and add:
a teaspoon of baking powder
a half cup at a time, any combination of unbleached and whole grain flour.
Keep working in the flour until the dough is stiff enough to roll out on a floured board. Generously flour the board and pull off a lump of dough. Roll it out a quarter of an inch thick and cut into conveniently sized pieces. Sprinkle the top with salt and press the salt in with the rolling pin. Sprinkle a baking pan with coarse corn meal and spread out crackers. Bake about 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Amazing.