Thanksgiving Shopping for the Environmental Learning Center

[We are excited to publish the second piece in our Foodshed Series, with monthly updates from the amazing chefs working so hard to provide program participants and staff at the Environmental Learning Center with sustainable, seasonal, and deliciously fresh food. In an age where the production and consumption of food are heavily disconnected, we work hard to preserve those ties by considering how food flows from the farms to our tables and all the processes in between. Purchasing from local farmers allows us to draw connections between their livelihoods and our own while at the same time contributing to our mission to conserve and restore Northwest environments through education. It’s a renewing and rewarding partnership, and one we hope to keep sustaining and growing.]
I would like to introduce myself. I am Shelby Slater, the Chef at the Environmental Learning Center. I was born and raised in Anacortes, Washington and am proud to call the Pacific Northwest my home. One of the privileges I have working for the North Cascades Institute is running our Foodshed program, the largest component of which is working with local sources to supply our food. On my way to work the week of Thanksgiving, I made six stops between Anacortes and the Environmental Learning Center, and would like to share that journey as an anecdote to the success of our foodshed efforts.

Thanksgiving Family Getaway salad bar prepared with fresh, local food! Photo by Ryan Weisberg.

My first (and some would argue most important) stop of the day was just on the way out of town where I met up with my life-long friend Dan who owns and operates Coyote and Moka Joe Coffee. He supplies us with fresh, roasted, organic, fair trade coffee. I think it’s a great way to start the day, especially on a cold November morning.
Further down the road heading east on Route 20, my next stop was just after coming into Burlington at Wild Harvest Food. They are the largest supplier of hand picked northwest berries in the country. Huckleberries and gooseberries, Oh My!
I then cut over to Mt. Vernon to the Skagit Valley Co-op, which is one of my favorite stores to shop at for some of our specialty food items. I picked up organic cranberries and vegan cheeses. The co-op is also a great place to find all our gluten-free supplies.

Berries galore from our friends at Osprey Hill Farm! Photo courtesy Osprey Hill Farm.

Next I headed back over to Burlington to Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill where I pick up 100 pounds of all-purpose flour for piecrusts and cookies and 50 pounds of whole wheat for the bread we bake from scratch. This year we’ve made huge headway in the baking department and are moving towards almost totally local and organic ingredients.
Then I got on my way to our office in Sedro-Woolley, where I stopped in to say hello to all our great staff and grabbed the mail before heading further along the road. It’s also were I met up with Geoff who, along with his wife Anna and their kids, make up Osprey Hill Farm located in Acme. I mostly buy our whole free-range organic chickens from them, but because it was Thanksgiving, that day I purchased Heritage Turkeys just as free and healthy as their chickens. They also have the best fingerling potatoes in the valley and I could not resist. Along with the spuds, I also picked up rainbow carrots, beets, and onions.
I jumped back on Hwy 20 and continued on my way to Rockport. I always make a stop before Concrete and take a minute to watch the elk if they are out in the viewing area, which I did on this day. I also make a stop on the east side of Concrete if the bald eagles are out on the Skagit River. Between the wildlife and the stunning views of the Cascade Mountains, it’s a wonder it doesn’t take me all day to get to work.

Thanksgiving turkey, gravy, and cranberry sauce served fresh to participants at the Environmental Learning Center. Photo by Ryan Weisberg.

After reaching Rockport, I took a right and headed about a quarter mile to Blue Heron Farm. Anne’s been supplying the Environmental Learning Center with fresh organic produce since the very inception of the Foodshed program. I also picked up more carrots and onions. But mostly I stopped by to get some of her awesome cooking pumpkins. They make the best pies in the world. And I purchased some acorn and carnival squash as well.
I love spending time with the people that supply our food at the Environmental Learning Center. They are a diverse and passionate group of people. I’m always enlightened and entertained with the time I spend with them.
Happy New Year from the Kitchen!
Leading photo courtesy Osprey Hill Farm.


  1. Saul

    It’s great to read about a “day in the life” of the Foodshed. Especially to get some insight into the people – Shelby, his staff and the farmers – who bring it to life. This is a wonderful and growing community project. And it makes me hungry as I read this before my early morning commute.

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