Archive for Local Food

Rentonish – Keeping Our City Unique

Screenshot 2014-01-16 13.06.11It’s been said many times before that no one likes Renton…until they live here. Then they love it! Growing up here, I took it’s charms and convenience for granted, along with the plentiful free parking, beautiful park areas, etc. Leaving to find BIGGER, greener pastures in neighboring Seattle, I never imagined I’d return to my home town. Now that I’ve been back for a few years, I wonder why I ever left. Returning, I saw Renton with new eyes.

Take a moment to think about our city and what sets it apart. What are the key elements that make Renton Rentonish? I think about those places that are like none other anywhere else: our natural features and special places, and of course, our small businesses.

Journey with me into a potential dystopian future, in which all small businesses have closed. Downtown Renton is a long line of boarded up storefronts. You have to go to Starbucks to get coffee, because Liberty Cafe, Common Ground Cupcakes, The Met, and Luther’s Table are closed. I hope you really like Red Robin, Applebee’s, Denny’s, or fast food, because those are your dining choices.

With all the small businesses closed at the Landing, you are left with big box options: no Poggi Bonsi, C’est La Vie, Creative Mom Toys, Eyes On the Landing… <sarcasm> At least the Big Box stores save you money, right? </sarcasm>

In this alternate reality, Renton looks like EVERY OTHER CITY. Having a fancy chain coffee store is not something to brag about, move here for, stay here for, or even remember.

In our reality, small businesses all over our city are struggling to survive, and we, as citizens of Renton, need to take responsibility for the demise of many of our city’s great small business assets (think Happy Delusions). More are on the chopping block if we don’t intervene (Old Renton Book Exchange). We are responsible because we chose to patronize big chains, rather than small businesses.

How bland does Renton have to get before we lose a sense of what “Rentonish” means? If we don’t want a city that looks like every other, it’s time we stood up and fought for it before it’s too late. Fight back by changing your shopping habits. Choose to RelyLocal!


Juneteenth – How we still support slavery in Renton

Happy Juneteenth! One-hundred forty-eight years ago today, slavery was declared abolished in Texas, two and a half years after the rest of the United States. This was an important landmark in our shared American history: African American as well as every other ethnicity; we are equal in value in spite of the color of our skin. No one person should ever be allowed to own another.

As we commemorate the end of slavery in America, let us remember that although we abolished legal slavery in America in the 1860’s, slavery still exists in America and around the world in the modern day. Even though you’ve probably never seen a restrained person laboring in Renton, you and I unknowingly pay for slavery to continue on a daily basis. Slaves harvest the cacao beans that are made into the chocolate that we eat in our chocolate chip cookies. Slaves produce the clothing that we purchase. Slaves mine the coltan that is used to make our mobile phones (watch the documentary online here). Slaves harvest produce grown in America that you buy at your grocery store, and raise the beef cattle that are processed into your fast food hamburgers.

It’s awkward to think about supporting slavery in our day to day lives. However, we can make choices that impact the demand for slavery produced products. We can:

  • Eat food that has been produced with transparency. Moving production of our food and goods behind closed doors has led to a proliferation of human rights violations and abuses. Undocumented workers, under myriad threats of violence against themselves and their families, deportation, and exposure, work for little to no pay to produce much of the food we eat. We can call for more transparency in the production of our food and supplies by choosing to buy locally from producers we know are ethical. What is transparent? Can you visit the farm where your veggies are grown? Can you shake the hand of the person who harvested your food, and ask them what their wages are? Buy instead from: Whistling Train Farm, Top of the Hill Produce, Smoking Monkey Pizza
  • Choose coffee, sugar, chocolate that is “Fair Trade” or “Direct Trade”. Yes, you will pay a little more for these things. You are paying the people who produced it a little more, too. That is a good thing. Liberty Cafe uses coffee from Middle Fork Roasters. They purchase Fair Trade coffee as often as it is available, which is apparently seasonal.
  • Buy clothing that has been produced ethically. This one is especially difficult. Most of the clothing we purchase has no history attached for us to view. The wages of the workers can influence the price of the final product, so that clothing produced ethically is more expensive than clothing produced as a result of slave labor. “Fair Trade” labelled clothing has added cost associated with being labelled “Fair Trade Certified”. Buying clothing second hand is a subversive way to “rob” money from the companies that produce unethical clothing. Buy Fair Trade clothing from Maya Whole Health. You can find second hand clothing at Chici Baby’s Consignment Boutique, and Little Quadoo Consignment Boutique
  • Be prepared to pay a little more. The question always is asked, “How can I afford to pay more for fair wages, when I can barely pay for the food and goods that are produced unfairly?” Ask yourself, can you do more with less? Do you really NEED another pair of shoes? Can you eat a little less chocolate? Eat at home a little more frequently? We are so accustomed to living with excess. Try living simply, so that others may simply live.
  • Share this information with others in your network. Spread the word. You may not be able to make a huge difference, but someone in your life may. Watch the video below and share it with everyone you know!

What other producers and retailers around Renton do you know of who sell slavery-free merchandise? Share them with us here so we can support them too!

Maya’s Partnership with Whistling Train Farm Organic Whole Foods

The Maya community now has a more convenient way to access locally-grown, organic whole foods.

The Maya community now has a more convenient way to access locally-grown, organic whole foods.

By Janet Muniz

Through a new partnership with Whistling Train Farm in Kent, WA, Maya Whole Health Studio is now a drop-site for its Summer Community Supported Agriculture Subscription Program, or CSA. Here’s how it works:

  • Every Tuesday morning starting today through the end of October, owners Mike and Shelley Verdi assemble a tasty, well-balanced assortment of harvested organic foods and deliver the boxes of fresh produce to Maya.
  • Subscribers can pick up their parcels by 7:30 pm on Tuesday, or between 8:30 am and 1:00 pm on Wednesday.

Tuesday mornings are a perfect time for Renton area subscribers to pick up their organic foods, especially if they’d like to supplement with fresh finds from the Renton Farmers Market, which takes place Tuesday afternoons from 3:00 to 7:00 in downtown Renton (through September 24).

Sign up before Tuesday, June 25 and get one extra delivery. Those interested in joining the Summer CSA can learn more by visiting the Farm’s website and completing an application. Three share sizes are offered -Small Shares feed one to three adults, Large Shares feed about three to five and Mini Shares each include five items of your choosing to supplement harvests from your home garden, or to introduce you to the CSA concept.

“The price is extremely reasonable, based on the rave reviews from last year,” Shelley tells us, “and the added bonus for subscribers is having all-you-can-pick flowers and peas available at our Kent farm for no extra cost.” Prices listed are for 18 weeks of delivery, so anyone who signs up before Tuesday, June 25 will get an extra delivery.

061913_MayaWholeHealth_WhistlingTrainFarmLogoHappy Farm-iversary! 2013 marks the 15th anniversary of Whistling Train Farm, a small family farm growing healthy food for the community. To celebrate, the Verdi’s are offering other great perks for subscribers, such as an expanded u-pick area, farm maps for self-guided tours, farm workshops and a late summer farm party!

Click the link to download the Whistling Train Farm 2013 CSA Flyer: 2013 CSA Farm Flyer. If you’re interested in subscribing or if you have questions about the CSA program, send an email to

Originally posted on Maya Whole Health’s blog, “Maya Currents”.

Valentine’s Day Adventures in Renton


For Valentine’s Day, Ian and I decided to take to Downtown Renton to see what kinds of adventures we could have.

First we stopped over at Garland Jewelers to get me a pretty little piece of jewelry. We made it at 5:45pm (which for us means getting off work early). They were closed, so we took silly pictures in front of their store. Don’t you love the quaint mosaic tile floor with their name on it

Next we walked until we found something open: Old Renton Book Exchange! I love books of all kinds, and particularly children’s books. We stopped in to see what we could see. Dacia, the owner, had some great recommendations for us. This is how the conversation went:

Me: “What do you have with pretty illustrations?”

Dacia: “How pretty is pretty?”

Me: “I don’t know, pretty.”

Based on her recommendation I found a new book of a French fairy tales with illustrations from Edmund Dulac. Monsieur Dulac’s illustrations are what I would call “pretty”. We also bought the next book that the Old Renton Book Exchange book club is reading. I hope we can read it before Wednesday when they meet again!

After leaving the bookstore with hugs and well-wishes, we stopped over at Renton Flower Shop where Ian had cleverly called ahead and ordered me roses. Don’t they look lovely? They smelled so lovely too! Thanks Ian!

The arrangement was an aromatic delight to carry down the street as we walked toward our dinner destination. On the way I noticed this sign in the window of Uncle Mo’s Snappy Inn. Funny the things you notice when you walk as opposed to drive.

We arrived momentarily at our dinner destination: Red House Beer & Wine Shoppe and Tapas Bar. We had peeked at the Valentine menu. Our mouths watered with anticipation.


We sat at a table surrounded by floor-to-ceiling wine bottles. The flowers we bought looked beautiful on the table. Here is Ian poring over our new treasures.

Ian had the venison special, which had a fruity balsamic reduction, and came with garlic turnip mashed potatoes and sauteed spicy greens. I had the Filet Mignon Oscar with Dungeness & Rock Crab Meat, Asparagus Caper Hollandaise Sauce over Garlic Turnip Mashed Potatoes. My steak was fork-tender, and the sauce delectable. I didn’t lick my plate. That’s not to say I didn’t want to.

After dinner we drove up to the Highlands to get a little something for Ian. We stopped in at 4th Street Wine and Spirits for some Scotch. Here’s a happy Ian with his treat. Actually we both love Scotch, and buying from this independent liquor store, so this gift is a win-win-win!

Our final stop was at Sweet Decadence Chocolates in Newcastle*. Like business smarties, they were open until 10pm on Valentine’s Day! Even in the late evening, Sweet Decadence had a wide selection of handmade chocolates and caramels. We chose a half-pound of truffles, which were carefully placed in a white box and tied with a red ribbon.


*For the record, we are not exclusive to Renton. We love Newcastle and businesses in Newcastle too! Ian and I both grew up there. Ian’s dad, Stuart Liddle, was among the first city council members when Newcastle incorporated as a city.

Keeping Food Local: Community Gardening in Renton

This is the first post in a series on eating locally in Renton.

The video I posted the other day about “Carrots, Pigs, and $3 Million Dollars” got me thinking about local food. Locally grown food has so many advantages over the same kinds food grown far away. Long travel time causes food to lose flavor and nutrients. Shipping food from distant places adds to foods’ cost and carbon footprint. Buying food grown locally means supporting farmers who will in turn support your local economy.

Eating locally also means eating seasonally. Those fresh berries in the grocery store in January are expensive because they are not in season in Renton. January berries are in season where January is summer, likely south of the equator.

Home grown food is delightful on so many levels. A well tended vegetable garden is like an edible jungle. I love roaming about through vines winding up stalks, stepping carefully to avoid crushing tender underbrush, while prowling for food. Once you know the enchanting flavor of a freshly-picked, juicy, sun-warmed, vine-ripened tomato, out of season grocery store tomatoes never seem worth your money again.

To a child, gardening is magical. In my childhood backyard, there was always space to garden. I remember one year my mother charged me with weeding a gladiolus bed. This prolific flower had given birth to thousands of tiny bulblets that had no home. She gave me a small plot of earth behind the compost pile to dig in and plant the baby bulbs. It was fun for a day or two. Then summer stole my attention, and I forgot about the possibility of flowers. A couple of months later, I saw some ruffly, orange flowers peeking out behind the compost pile. There, in my neglected garden, was a tall, stately stalk of gladiolus flowers. Those flowers served to remind me that a seed, or bulb, may not look like much, but given time it will bear fruit. A seed is a promise of good things to come.

As an adult, the joys of gardening are harder to come by. Along with almost two-thirds of the American population, we live in multi-family housing. Apartment living comes without backyards, as a general rule. How can apartment dwellers grow their own food?

That’s where community gardens come in. Last year I had two plots at Sunset Community Garden in the Sunset Neighborhood in Renton. A co-operative effort between Sunset Neighborhood Association and Calvary Baptist Church, Sunset Community Garden is open to the public. I rented two garden spaces for $15 each for the year. This covered soil amendments and water. We were also expected to participate in scheduled work days around the garden.

My two garden plots equaled 40 square feet in sum. The first veggies planted were replaced as they completed their production. In this way I planted over forty different kinds of vegetables over the growing season. During the peak of summer I was harvesting between 5 and 10 POUNDS of produce a week! I grew several varieties of kale, beets, tomatoes, onions, green beans, carrots, radishes, baby greens, herbs, fennel, peas, spinach, Swiss chard, and others. During the hour a week I spent tending my beds, I conversed with newly-met neighbors, fellow gardeners, and passersby.

Other community gardens exist around Renton. They are popular, and spaces fill quickly each year. If you are interested in being a part of the community at Sunset Community Garden, registration begins in February 15th.