If you’ve been to a Seattle Chef’s Collaborative Farmer-Fisher-Chef Connection event in the last few years, you’ve probably run into Amy Grondin, SPC owner/fisherman who helps organize the event. The mission of Chef’s Collaborative (now FORKS- Fields, Oceans, Ranches, Kitchens, Stewards in Seattle) is to work with chefs and the greater food community to foster a more sustainable food supply.
Amy has been involved in restaurants for some 23 years doing seasonal work supporting her work as a fisherman. Which is why she thinks it’s important to build relationships between producers, chefs and eaters. Farmers, Ranchers and Fishermen have a lot to teach chefs and the diners who enjoy their food.
What we eat affects our environment and social patterns. We don’t feed people just for today but tomorrow. Imagine the number of meals we eat over a lifetime and the effect we have on our health and the environment by making certain choices in that food. That’s why this relationship between producer, chef and eater is so important. Food is the foundation of health and what we eat corresponds with how we feel and how we treat the place where we live.
This is why we put so much pride in the sustainable seafood that SPC produces.
Here Amy is in her own words:
Amy Grondin with wild salmon
My name is Amy Grondin. Part of the year I make my living as a commercial salmon fisherman. When not on the water, my work is in Commercial Fisheries Outreach with a focus on sustainable food systems. I rely on salmon to make a living and see them as very important business partners.
F/V Duna, our 40’ wooden fishing boat, was built in 1936 in Tacoma. My husband Greg and I fish together in Washington and Alaska.
* Note that Amy Grondin now fishes on the Arminta and the Duna now belongs to co-op producer Lance Preston.
Our salmon fishing season begins off the coast of Washington on May 1st. Towards the end of June we’ll stop fishing Washington waters and start the trip to Southeast Alaska where we’ll fish for the rest of the summer. Come September the fishing slows down and the crew of two is getting tired. This time of year each day starts and ends wondering if the autumn storms are coming and if it’s time to stack the fishing gear and head south with the geese flying overhead. It is a good life for us and we look forward to working on the water.
Catching fish–fish that feeds people, makes them happy, and provides a healthy protein for their diets–is a spiritual experience for us, and we take our work very seriously and put pride in the quality of our work.
What we do as fishermen is essential to life on this planet and how we treat what we work with determines our future.
Here’s Amy on the unique way SPC members catch our fish:
We catch salmon by trolling, which is often called hook and line fishing. Trolling is a very sustainable fishing technique as each fish is caught one at a time. If the fish caught on a hook is too small to keep or not of the right species it can be released alive to swim away. Often trolling is confused with trawling as the names of these two fishing techniques roll off the tongue in a similar way but the similarity stops there. Trawling involves catching fish with a net that is dragged behind a fishing boat in deep water very near the sea floor. Fish caught by trawling are not alive when they are landed on the boat so there is no chance to release fish that are not the target species. There is no chance to focus on quality either. In the jargon of fisheries, trolling is a selective gear type while trawling is nonselective.
On the water Greg and I are very tuned into our fishing world. We monitor the boat, weather, sea conditions, fish and ourselves. We conserve water, fuel, cook only what we will eat and in general try to keep all in balance because we only have what is on board the boat. The goal is to create as little waste as possible because there is nowhere for it to go but on the boat with you.
With so much talk of sustainable seafood, and sustainability in general, it’s important to have a definition and here’s how Amy defines it: “If we take care of the fish the fish will take care of us by providing us with an income and food. We make a living working hard while acting as stewards to salmon and the ocean. This is how our small floating business achieves triple bottom line results – a balance of people, profit and planet.”
Amy met Greg through a fellow wooden boat builder in Maine. They winter in Port Townsend, Washington, a town known for wooden boats and boat builders. The same care that Amy takes in promoting sustainable seafood, Greg takes in preserving a heritage of wooden boats.
Greg and Amy, commercial fishermen with Seafood Producers Cooperative.
The Duna, like the 567 other fishing family boats where Seafood Producers Cooperative owner/members make their lives, is a small business. A small American business that is a way of life. The Duna produces food that feeds us and gives us life in a way that doesn’t damage the planet on which we live. Amy blogs at http://FishEqualsFood.com/