Organic Farming Meets Falconry
It’s local berry time! Farmers’ market stalls are loaded with the bounty of the season, which lasts not much more than a month. We traveled up to Skagit County last week in hopes of building relationships with growers willing to sell wholesale directly to us – like other northwest fruit, much of the production is contracted through international consolidators. Although the consolidators do support our farmers, it can be difficult to trace our fruit to a particular grower, and it’s our goal to be able to work directly with the folks who are growing, packing and harvesting the produce we offer.
Integrated pest management took on a whole new meaning when we visited the fields of Sakuma Brothers in Burlington. At a certain scale, propane cannons, metallic tape and electronic predator calls are not efficient methods for discouraging the huge populations of starlings, crows and other birds who feed on the berries there. Skagit farms used to produce vast amounts of peas for the processing industry: a pea field after the mechanical harvester rolls through is a veritable cafeteria for birds. Those operations have since moved elsewhere, but the birds have not. Since these avian marauders can decimate up to 25% of the crop, it pays to bring in a top team of falconers for the season. These experts help farmers and other operations with an innovative means of bird abatement .
Falconry is a form of hunting which was first recorded in China in 680 B.C. Sometimes called ”the sport of kings”, it was and still is as much a way to put food on the table in some parts of the world as it is a rich man’s pastime. A peregrine falcon in a hunting dive is the fastest animal on the planet! The bird we met was a juvenile Red-naped Shaheen, native to Iran and one of several breeds used for their particular methods of hunting quarry. To see these magnificent creatures, meet their handlers, and learn about this ancient art put to modern use added an unexpected dimension to our latest sourcing trip.