(This article is sponsored by Sustainable Connections)
Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain had a straightforward approach when he visited unfamiliar places. He always ate local and he did it with gusto.
Throughout September, restaurants and breweries in Bellingham and surrounding Whatcom and nearby Skagit counties are also embracing that philosophy with a smorgasbord of Eat Local Month specials.
This part of northern Washington state is known far and wide for its abundant seafood and fertile farmland. Through a progressive organization called Sustainable Connections, local businesses embrace the idea that the economy thrives when residents place a premium on locally produced food, renewable energy, and waste reduction.
That applies to bakeries, delis, liquor outlets, restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, and other enterprises. Plus the many farms, of course. On September 17 with the return of the Whatcom County Farm Tour, they’ll swing open their gates to welcome community members and visitors who want a firsthand glimpse at how food is produced.
Another featured event is SeaFeast, also on September 17th, which showcases Whatcom’s maritime heritage and our internationally renowned fishing and seafood industries. Sustainable Connections will also be celebrating all the opportunities to connect with local farmers markets.
Whatcom County has about 227,000 residents and its northern boundary is the Canadian border. The largest city is Bellingham and other communities include Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, Nooksack, Sumas, Birch Bay, and Point Roberts.
Directly south is Skagit County, which is named for the Skagit Indian Tribe and is home to about 130,000 people. This county’s largest city is Mount Vernon and it also includes Anacortes, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley, Concrete, Hamilton, La Conner, and Lyman.
Travelling through these counties, one is immediately struck by the expansive agricultural areas, impressive forests, and gorgeous views of the Salish Sea. There’s a plethora of restaurants, breweries, and welcoming farms, as well as a thriving arts and cultural scene.
Nearby Lynden, just 15 miles to the north, is home to a dance and arts centre and various galleries featuring the works of local sculptors and painters.
Further south, the Mount Vernon Arts Consortium highlights the community’s big city entertainment along with its small town vibes. Washington state’s poet laureate is Rena Priest, a member of the Lhaq'temish (Lummi) Nation, which has called this area home for thousands of years.
This pocket of Washington state is the where the circular economy thrives. Local businesses are showing the way toward a better future by focusing on experiences rather than out-of-control consumption.
Sustainable Connections not only nourishes an appreciation for eating local, it also celebrates the region’s diversity by shining a spotlight on locally owned businesses. The website features companies that are Indigenous-owned, veteran-owned, Arab and Middle Eastern-owned, Black-owned, disability-owned, Asian-owned, Pacific Islander-owned, woman-owned, LGBTQIA+-owned, and Latinx-owned.
So what are you waiting for? Head to Bellingham, surrounding Whatcom County, and Skagit County in September to discover the joy of eating local and the delights of locally owned enterprises. You just might discover that a little piece of paradise is only an hour or two away.