Sustainable Connections CREATING THRIVING COMMUNITIES THROUGH INNOVATIVE IDEAS, COLLABORATION, AND ACTION. Thu, 22 Aug 2019 18:13:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sustainable Connections 32 32 Lead Carpenter Thu, 22 Aug 2019 18:13:04 +0000 Company: Bellingham Bay Builders

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Certified Plumber or Plumber Trainee Tue, 20 Aug 2019 19:08:09 +0000 Company: Favinger Plumbing

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Skilled Cook and Server Tue, 13 Aug 2019 21:51:11 +0000 Company: Rifugio’s Country Italian Cuisine

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The Future of Food Recovery Fri, 09 Aug 2019 21:26:03 +0000 By Mark Peterson

I am fascinated and similarly appalled when diving deep and learning more about our solid waste systems. Still, I revel in thinking big about ways to solve the challenges facing our communities and our planet. In my time here at Sustainable Connections there have been some big wins to celebrate like the incredible efforts of Samson Rope that have resulted in massive cost savings in the 100s of thousands of dollars over the past decade. However, I must admit the initiative that has been really filling my soul as of late is our Food Recovery Initiative (FRI).

For those of you not familiar with this initiative, we safely recover prepared edible foods from a broad spectrum of entities, ranging from the kitchens at senior assisted living facilities to large events, and in turn deliver this nutritious high quality food to hunger relief agencies. When we first started the program I wondered what kind of an impact we could make and the targets we set at the time felt quite high but in fact turned out to be quite low.

Food Recovery at the Willows – A LifeMinded Residence

The harsh reality is, even though people are going hungry, there is no shortage of food to recover. The upside is we blew away the required deliverables for our first Department of Ecology grant. How well did we do you ask? Thanks to the participating businesses, volunteers and agencies receiving the food we have recovered over 51,000 pounds of food, with over 47,000 pounds of that food redistributed to hunger relief agencies, who in turn served over 39,000 meals to members of our community experiencing hunger insecurity. That is no small feat!

There is no way we could have pulled this off without the support from all areas of our community including restaurants, caterers, event directors and volunteers. A special mention here goes out to the Whatcom County Health Department who has been a partner in this effort from the outset and without their forward thinking, approval and guidance there is no way we would be where we are now.

Which leads me to the next point – because of the exemplary efforts of all involved we have been awarded by the Department of Ecology another two years of funding. This is great news because it will allow us to continue and expand our efforts, reduce food waste and serve even more people in the further reaches of our county. My soul is full knowing that together we are protecting our environment and making a positive difference in people’s lives every single day.

We have some big plans and we’re excited to share our progress along the way. Here is to the future of food recovery – we know the next two years and beyond will be even better.

From all of us here at Sustainable Connections we would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has contributed to make the Food Recovery Initiative an ongoing success.

With gratitude

Mark Peterson

Boldly Grown Farm Tue, 06 Aug 2019 20:15:22 +0000 Winter Veggies with a Passion

By Alex Smith

August 2019

One of the special aspects of Northwest Washington is the seasons. During summer, it may be the most pleasant place on earth. Winter also brings snow in the mountains, and the occasional sunny spring and fall days remind us of the beauty of the region. It’s a common complaint that we get 6 months of cold rain, but that rain and snow is what makes the area so lush and food so bountiful.

The long, cold, rainy stretches do present a challenge when it comes to food, though. While the summer months are loaded with everything from berries and plums to tomatoes and squash, it can be more challenging to find fresh, locally grown food during the winter. That void is being filled by Boldly Grown Farm in Skagit County.

Operated by Amy Frye and Jacob Slosberg, Boldly Grown has been growing vegetables for 5 years and has found a niche in providing good food through the winter months. The ultimate goal is to create a real change in the food system by making locally grown food available to everyone. “We’re very passionate about feeding the community quality and healthy food,” Amy explains as we sit in the shade. “If we really want to change the food system, we have to meet people where they’re at.”


Amy and Jacob met while in school at the University of British Columbia. Amy was working on a Masters thesis interviewing farmers on the edge of urban areas. She grew up on her grandparents’ farm in Minnesota and discovered the campus farm while out on a run and eventually became the director. Meanwhile Jacob, a native of Seattle who has always had the goal of farming, was also attending UBC and teaching a practicum on agriculture.

The complementary skill sets are the key to their success. Jacob is an expert on equipment and uses his experience to create efficient systems so the farm can be productive. Amy’s experience in marketing and administration provides a guiding vision.

This synergy is what allows the pair to grow high quality vegetables and fill a gap in local food production. Growing vegetables in winter is hard – that’s why it’s often hard to find them from local farms – but they take a creative approach. They grow storage crops like onions and cabbages that can survive harsh winters. But they also grow radicchio that works well as a salad base. Recently they took a trip to Italy to meet with seed growers and see different varieties. A good selection of winter squash is a must for the dark months, and they are constantly trying new varieties to get tasty squash that will stay fresh and delicious for a long time.

Beyond the food they produce, what clearly stands out is a commitment to farming responsibly. Both Amy and Jacob have been involved with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) which teaches ecological principles and leadership. Both self-described “outdoorsy” people, they take an ecological approach to farming. “We knew if we wanted to care about the planet we had to be involved in agriculture. We have a great opportunity to produce food with a low impact.”

The ultimate goal for Amy and Jacob is to have a property with pollinator habitat, hedgerows, and other systems to create a farm that is in harmony with the natural environment. Currently they farm at Viva Farms, an organization that leases land and provides infrastructure, equipment, and market support to beginning farmers.

Beyond being ecologically sustainable, though, the goal is to sustain the farm and strengthen the community. They currently have three employees, and all are returning from the previous season. Watching the crew plant new rows of cabbage, it’s clear that they’re valued and respected. Parents of a two year old, Amy and Jacob know that they need to keep good employees and are willing to pay living wages for quality workers.


Social commitments don’t end with payroll. Boldly Grown Farm has a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program where members subscribe and get a box of food delivered biweekly at locations from Bellingham to Seattle. Members have the option to also contribute to a financial aid fund for people who can’t afford their own share. This year Boldly Grown used this fund to provide one free share and also donated a share at their expense. “We’re excited about reaching people on the edge – people who aren’t already shopping at the farmers market.”

Farming is a tough profession. Long hours, uncomfortable working conditions, and fickle markets are just some of the challenges. So it’s inspiring to see farmers who are not just succeeding at farming, but finding new markets, looking to provide food to the less fortunate, and working to heal the ecosystem. In a world where not everyone has access to good, local food, Boldly Grown Farm is working toward a solution.

You can find Boldly Grown Farm produce at the Skagit Valley Co-op, select local restaurants, or subscribe to their winter CSA now.

Boldly Grown Farm

Tortillas Con Madre Wed, 31 Jul 2019 20:31:56 +0000

Tradition, reinvented

By Alex Smith

Traditional cooking methods are traditions for a reason. Mothers and fathers teach their children, and the children make slight improvements over generations. In many cases it’s hard to imagine these processes getting any better. Hand-made pasta using traditional Italian methods is hard to beat. Seasoned meat cooked simply over fire is about as basic as it gets, but it doesn’t need to be more complex.

But with the advent of new technology and fast-flowing information, some of these traditional recipes and techniques can be improved upon. By using different ingredients and equipment, we can preserve the essence while making the food even better.

Tortillas are a great example of this. Traditional tortillas contain very few ingredients and are made using simple techniques passed down through generations. If you’ve ever had a freshly made tortilla, you’ve experienced what it’s like to taste the flavor of hundreds of years of skilled hands crafting a seemingly perfect flatbread.


But what if you took that simple recipe and used slightly different ingredients to make a tortilla that tastes delicious and is also packed with nutrients? That’s exactly what Lupita Nava has done with Tortillas Con Madre. She grew up in Mexico and learned from her madre and abuela to make the flour tortillas that are traditional to the region of Monterrey. Now she’s taken those techniques and modified them to use what’s available in Lynden, where she has lived for the past 20 years.

Using locally produced pumpkin seed oil and local grains from Skagit County, Lupita has created what she calls a “functional food” – a food that provides good nutritional value. These tortillas are also the only commercially available certified organic option made in the Pacific Northwest.

At this point, you may be asking an important question: how do these taste? It’s a valid question, and I’ve had my fair share of experiences with “alternative” tortillas that are dry, crack easily, or just don’t taste good. These are different. In fact, these might be the best all-around tortillas I’ve had. The pumpkin seed oil is nutritious, and it’s also wonderfully rich and buttery in flavor. The texture is soft and pliable, but just thick enough to keep from falling apart, even if you’re like me and always over-fill your tortillas. The size is just right, too. At about 8 inches, they comfortably fit plenty of carnitas, beans, lettuce, radishes, salsa, or whatever you like to stuff in them.

This amazing combination that resulted in “tortillas beyond their flavor,” (in Lupita’s words) was no accident. She worked directly with the flour mill to find the right blend, a whole wheat flour mixture. She tried several different oils before arriving at organic pumpkin seed oil. Neighbors, friends, and family acted as test subjects to help her dial in the recipe to perfection. Her husband Gerardo, along with their 3 kids, have helped with the business from the start as well, and it remains an entirely family-run operation.


This isn’t the first time Lupita and Gerardo have run a tortilla business. In Monterrey, Mexico they ran a tortilla company but eventually moved to Canada and their family continued to run the business. It’s always been a dream to start producing tortillas again, but Lupita has taken her time. “I’ve wanted to start a business, but I wanted to make something that’s good for people,” she tells me. “I want people to have good food on their table.” The recipe was developed for flavor, texture, and nutrition. While she never uses preservatives, the tortillas still last a week unrefrigerated, or up to a month in the fridge. You can also freeze them for longer storage, and when thawed they return to their soft, pliable texture.

The beauty of Tortillas Con Madre is in the simplicity. The ingredients that aren’t in the tortillas are as important as the ones that are. If you look at the ingredient list on most commercial tortillas, even organic options, you’ll find stabilizers, dough conditioners, preservatives, and other things that you probably don’t recognize as food. Look at Lupita’s label and you’ll find five ingredients: wheat flour, water, pumpkin seed oil, sea salt, and baking powder. Real food to nourish your family while supporting your community.

These tortillas truly bring to mind visions of the fresh tortillas that are abundant in Mexico but nearly impossible to find in this region. “I wanted to eat tortillas like the ones I had growing up,” Lupita says describing one of the reasons for starting the business. She has succeeded in taking the lessons learned from generations of Mexicans and sharing those with our community, while putting her unique spin on tradition.

You can find Tortillas Con Madre at both Community Food Co-op locations, The Green Barn, and starting in August, at Haggen stores starting with Barkley Village and Meridian.

Tortillas Con Madre

]]> Food & Farming Events & Outreach Intern Wed, 24 Jul 2019 22:12:29 +0000 The Food & Farming Events & Outreach Intern will work closely with the Food & Farming team to improve community visibility of the Eat Local First campaign and increase business participation in various areas of the Sustainable Connections Food & Farming program. The position will report to Alex Smith and Sara Southerland, and will work independently and collaboratively with members of the team to accomplish these goals. The position will require a minimum of 8-12 hours per week and will run from April – September. This is a dynamic position and the duties and goals may shift over time.

Organization: Sustainable Connections,
Title: Food & Farming Events & Outreach Intern
Reports to: Food & Farming Program Director, Food & Farming Outreach Coordinator
Location: Bellingham, WA
Status: Unpaid/Temporary Internship
Application Deadline: Applications accepted July 23-August 9
Internship Dates: 8-20 hours/week from mid-August 2019 – November 2019

The Food & Farming Events & Outreach Intern will work closely with the Food & Farming team to improve community visibility of the Eat Local First campaign and increase business participation in various areas of the Sustainable Connections Food & Farming program. The position will report to Alex Smith and Sara Southerland, and will work independently and collaboratively with members of the team to accomplish these goals. The position will require a minimum of 8-12 hours per week and will run from mid-August through November. This is a dynamic position and the duties and goals may shift over time.

• Represent Food & Farming Program and Eat Local First campaign at community events and festivals, engaging with members of the public
• Lead cooking demos at Farmers Markets and other locations around Whatcom County
• Support with growing the Eat Local First campaign via phone calls and in-person meetings
• Support with planning business workshops
• Support with online Local Food Atlas data entry and outreach
• Write business feature articles and support with e-newsletters
• Assist in distributing the Food & Farm Finder and other materials
• Keep detailed records of distribution, engagement, and other metrics

Desired Qualifications and Qualities
• Outgoing and confident, enjoys community outreach
• Experience in sustainability, ideally sustainable business
• Strong written and verbal communication
• Knowledge and enthusiasm for the mission of Sustainable Connections
• Detail-oriented self starter
• Ability to work independently and as part of a team
• Experience with software and ability to learn new programs
• Reliable transportation

• Help an innovative organization improve our community
• Learn transferrable skills for nonprofit and private sector work
• Meet farmers, business owners, and other members of the community
• Attend exclusive events
• Enjoy an occasional delicious shared meal
• Fresh ground coffee and an unbeatable tea selection in the office

Qualified applicants should send a resume and contact information for three professional or academic references by email only to Please write “Food & Farming Events & Outreach Intern” in the subject line. Application review begins August 1st and closes August 9th.
Sustainable Connections complies with all federal, state, and local laws which prohibit discrimination in employment. Recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce is a high priority at Sustainable Connections.
Sustainable Connections is an equal opportunity employer that believes it is the responsibility of the company and all its employees to ensure there is no discrimination against any employee or applicant for employment based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, military service, sexual orientation, gender identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, genetic information, or any other protected status.

Brand Ambassador / Retail Sales Wed, 17 Jul 2019 17:19:39 +0000 Company: Shrub Farm

Closing Date: open until filled

Appliance Repair Technician Fri, 12 Jul 2019 16:16:26 +0000 Company: ReUse Works: Appliance Depot

Closing Date: Open Until Filled

Food Service Assistant Tue, 09 Jul 2019 20:57:24 +0000 Company: North Cascades Institute

Closing Date: Open until filled