Starvation Alley is the first organic cranberry farm on the Long Beach peninsula of Washington, certified in 2013. Their primary product is 100% raw, unsweetened cranberry juice, available at Seattle and Portland farmers markets, retailers and used in many of the cities’ best bars and restaurants. Starvation Alley also now teams up with other area farmers to help other farmers transition to organic. In early October they hosted the first annual Bog Social, bringing over 40 people out to the farm to participate in the 2015 cranberry harvest.
“We’re really proud of the fruit we harvest and sell along with the cold-pressed juice we make, but what brings a greater meaning to what we do is the landscape of Long Beach and the PNW community that we share it with. It was an early goal to have a gathering at harvest to celebrate the greater efforts of the entire industry – from bartenders to wholesalers, chefs to fellow makers, and story tellers to farmers. If collaborations can be built on connections made from celebration, it makes for stronger communities (and great alliterations). But really, why keep something so magical like the North Coast a secret? We look forward to many more Bog Socials in the future, to which we hope
LET um EAT will be there every year!” – Alana Kambury, Starvation Alley
Harvest. The word evokes visions of sweat, dirty hands and long hours for everyone working on the farm. This is the time to reap the benefits of months of the planning, planting and hard work. This year, harvest began on a sunny and unseasonably warm October morning in Long Beach, WA. Alana Kambury and the passionate team at Starvation Alley brought together chefs, brewers, farmers, winemakers and food lovers for an experience of a lifetime.
On a breezy but clear Sunday afternoon, we all gathered on Long Beach to get acquainted with one another. Warmth from a bonfire kept everyone toasty as the cool ocean breeze blew in. Fresh oysters were shucked, beer and wine flowed and everyone mingled. After a late dinner at The Pickled Fish, we were off to get some rest for an early morning harvest.
A light crisp fog on the horizon greeted us at dawn, mixed with the aroma of fresh coffee. Madeline Dickerson of Pink Poppy Bakery provided a delicious hot breakfast as the guests started to arrive for harvest. Meanwhile, the cranberry fields were being flooded with about 18” of water. A special tractor, nicknamed “the beater” is driven through the bog; beating the bog is part of the process of cranberry wet harvesting cranberries. The beater agitates the bog and the cranberries pop loose from the vines that grow along the ground. A small pocket of air within each cranberry causes them to float to the top of the water where they can be gathered. On this harvest day as the fog began to burn off, the morning sun arrived glorious and warm on the farm. Some folks donned waders, while others were not afraid to go in the water with bare legs. Everyone gathered in the bog and started to corral the berries with a boom: a floatation device with a skirt that hangs about 6” under the water. This boom is pushed from one corner of the bog to the other rounding up all of the cranberries in one area. Lastly, a conveyer machine pulls the cranberries out of the water and into boxes on the back of a flatbed truck. The cranberries are then hauled off for cleaning and processing.
The LET um EAT crew stayed busy all day cooking meat and veggies over an open fire pit on the farm. They teamed up with chef Carlo Lamanga and the Clyde Common crew to prepare the evening’s dinner, held at the newly remodeled Salt Hotel overlooking the picturesque Port of Ilwaco. The hors d’oeuvres included oysters, beef heart tartare and roasted bone marrow crostini served with herb salad, radishes, onion jam, pickled ramps, green tomato relish, watermelon rind, and cranberry lardo. This was followed by a sensational four course dinner, starting with salad of ash-roasted vegetables, cranberry agrodolce, sprouted soil and fall greens. The second course did not disappoint one bit with salt-baked salmon, grilled lemon and butterball potatoes. The third course of ribeye, beef ribs, wild mushrooms, grilled onion, and Oregon truffle-herb butter was as mouth-watering as it sounds. And even after such a delectable meal, most managed to save room for dessert. The chefs delighted the crowd with a play on traditional s’mores by pairing chocolate budino, garam masala graham cracker crumble and toasted fluff!
Wine, beer, and cocktails from A to Z Wineworks, Soter Wines, The Bitter Housewife, The New Deal Distillery, Ransom Spirits, Merit Badge Company, Union Wine, Wildcraft Cider, Hopworks, Finnriver Ciders, Timber City Ginger and Buoy Beer Company filled every glass and complemented the meal and friendly atmosphere. Other sponsors and participants in the Bog Social included New Seasons Market, The Commissary, Harmless Harvest, Bee Local, Jacobsen Salt, Roman Candle Bakery, Trifecta Bakery, Dave’s Killer Bread, Bowery Bagels, Stumptown, Marshall’s Haute Sauce, Pink Poppy Bakery, the Adrift Hotel and the Salt Hotel. Kelly Cox documented the entire event, filming for her original PBS Food web series: Original Fare. In this series, she adventures across the U.S. hanging out with chefs, farmers and foodies, exposing the fun and authentic side of food and eating in America. Be sure to look for this “harvest party” episode on Original Fare in Winter 2016.
Harvest. After this experience, the word evokes feelings of community, friendship and camaraderie. On that sunny day, we harvested 8000 lbs of cranberries off of the Starvation Alley bogs. That number seems enormous; however, with the help of friends, delicious food and delightful libations, the hard work seemed like an adventure. Laughter filled the air and every last one of us was ear to ear smiling. It was an honor and profoundly satisfying to be a part of a collective effort for the greater good. The Starvation Alley team was generous to share their craft with us, if only for a couple of days. Their impassioned dedication was an inspiration to everyone who was fortunate enough to be a part of it and I can’t wait to visit again!
Top Photo Credit: Page Stephenson