We’ve been on the hunt for local pig.

In fact, we joined the Growing Things Farm CSA in fall ’06, with the idea that if we liked their produce and eggs, we might get our meat from them as well. Growing Things is a thirty-acre organic farm in Carnation, Washington, run by a woman named Michaele Blakeley and her son, who goes by Blake. Michaele’s been farming for twenty years, and she’s widely recognized in the area for her innovations in organic agriculture.

Well, six weeks into our subscription, the Snoqualamie River flooded the farm, and Michaele and Blake lost not only their house and all of their fall/winter ’06-’07 crops but some meat animals, too. They fought hard to make their way back, putting in sixteen hour days, seven days per week, and in spring they returned to the farmers markets with a limited selection of vegetables and fruits.

I chatted with Michaele a few weeks ago while I was buying some of her corn and broccoli. She said that they’d finally moved into more habitable quarters, a year after the flood, but that the business remains on rocky footing and they won’t be offering a produce or fruit CSA until further notice. Nor was she hopeful that they’d have meat in 2008. This was disappointing to hear. It’s a lesson in how a small, unconventional farm can just get wiped off the map, and how long it takes to rebuild, even with a devoted market clientele. Michaele said that she’ll be turning daily operations over to Blake, because her carpal tunnel has gotten so bad that her hands go numb every day. I noted how swollen and weathered her fingers look. She’s going to have to find something else, she said, because her injury has made it impossible to make a living farming anymore. And because she has no health insurance, there’s no way to get surgery that might fix her hands.

I still like the idea of getting everything from one farmer whom I trust, someone who grows a diverse selection of vegetable crops and meat animals within a totally self-sustaining system. But after hearing that meat wasn’t coming back to Growing Things I began looking around again for sustainably-raised pork. It was now past the end of the season, so the timing wasn’t ideal. Plus, I wanted to buy in bulk and the ranchers at the farmers’ markets were all selling by the cut.

Eventually I learned about Crown “S” Ranch in Winthrop, Washington, where the meat animals seem to be raised humanely and on grass pasture. Crown “S” sells in quantity, and they were about to deliver their fall harvest, so I ordered twenty-five pounds of their pork. The batch arrives tomorrow.

I’m hoping that Growing Things can restore its business to full health. Michaele tells a story about how in their darkest days after the flood, she opened an envelope containing an anonymous $10,000 check from a longtime market customer. She’s also gotten help from the PCC Farmland Trust, a local group that purchases and preserves organic farmland in the Seattle area. This level of support is a testament to the sense of community that local food can build — and a cautionary tale about how exposed our small-time organic farmers are.

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