Extended Farm Tours

Local eats from Orcas farms

Barn Owl Bakery, Lopez Island.— Image Credit: Contributed Photo/ John Sinclair

In the islands, most of us know a bit about the farming history of our communities. But many of us don’t often get a chance to see behind the scenes of the process that brings food to our table. For three days in October, more than two dozen farms and farm-related businesses on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Island will be open to the public, with demonstrations on everything from apple cider pressings to sheep shearing.

Lopez Island tours cover two days of learning and fun

On Lopez Island, the tours span two days; on October 10, the smell of fresh baked scones from a wood0fired oven will greet you at Barn Owl Bakery on Midnight’s Farm, where you can tour a Department of Ecology-approved compost facility, and look through the microscope into the world of microbiology to discover why compost is so important for our farms, island community, and our planet. At Wet Wool Farm & Island Fibers, watch a sheep dog demonstration, learn about the breeds of sheep on the farm, their fleeces, and meat qualities, followed by a tour of Island Fibers to see how island fleeces are used for yarn, weaving and the creation of luscious rugs, shawls, and more.

At the 55-acre biodynamic S&S Homestead Farm, learn how the farm integrates plant and animal production, visit the gardens, dairy and cheese facility, followed by a delicious wood-fired pizza lunch made from products grown on the farm. At Sweet Grass Farm, learn how to make a durable and flexible raised bed for gardening; fill it with a compost mix for growing your crops or flowers, all without tilling. Sweet Grass Farm produces compost and Wagyu beef. Sunnyfield Farm is the islands’ newest licensed Grade A Raw Milk Goat Dairy, certified since November of 2014. You can tour the goat dairy and taste the fresh cheese with apples from the farm’s trees.

On October 11, some of the earlier tours and workshops will repeat, with additional options, join the bakers at Barn Owl Bakery and follow the path from grain to pizza with a tour starting at the mill at Grist to see how local grain is processed with historic equipment, then visit Barn Owl Bakery to see how fresh ground grain is used to make wood-fired pizza. Another workshop includes pasta making at Edenwild Boutique Inn’s kitchen, and a fermentation workshop at Vortex Café, where you can learn the basics of fermenting and the health benefits of incorporating lacto-fermented foods into your meals, along with delicious fermented foods to sample.

The culmination of both days of tours will be dinner, of course. The first night, the Grange will host a barbecue with Helen’s Farm burgers or sausage with Sunnyfield chevre on Barn Owl buns with fresh green salad from Lopez Harvest. Wines from Lopez Island Vineyards will be served, and you can enter a homemade fresh pie in the pie contest. Slices of pie will be sold with funds going to the LIFEschool farm to cafeteria program. The second night, a 5-course farm-to-table dinner at Edenwild Boutique Inn will feature Lopez Island farms and wines.

Each tour or workshop is prices separately. Tickets are available for cash purchase at each stop, or at www.eventbrite.com. Kids under 12 are free.

San Juan Island Three-Farm Walking Tour

Historic farms connect today’s farmers with the island’s cultural past

At the north end of San Juan, three historic farms share borders, and history. All three farms were homesteaded to grow fruit, from apples and pears to plums and now kiwi and Asian pears. On this tour, you can walk between the farms, talk to the farmers and purchase fruit and press cider to take home.

At the 20-acre Sweet Earth Farm, farmers Elaine Kendall and Amanda Zee raise chickens, ducks, turkeys, pigs and a range of fruit, herbs, vegetables, mushrooms and berries. On October 11 from noon to 4:00, you can tour of their diverse fruit orchard, abundant market garden, and livestock, including Heritage Breed Kune Kune pigs.  Just through across the field and through the trees, is Mitchell Bay Farm, established in 1900. The farmers Colleen Howe & Bruce Gregory will discuss the commercial kiwi and Asian pear orchard, sheep, and holistic management practices of the farm, integrating soil management, fertility, livestock grazing and crop production. Enjoy delicious fresh brewed teas and home-baked cookies while sitting near the spectacular perennial gardens.

A short walk takes you to nearby Lacrover Farm, once part of a large family homestead from the late 1900s, and protected by a conservation easement through the San Juan Preservation Trust. It is now owned by Paul Lacrampe, Katie Hover and their son, Quinn.  Known for their berries (strawberries in particular) they also grow a wide variety of produce both in the field and in their greenhouse, and raise sheep and chickens for meat and eggs.

$25 pp (children under 12 half-price) provides free farm tours plus San Juan Island Cheese Ploughman’s Lunchbox with artisan cheese, meat, bread, and chocolate truffle from Quails Croft Chevre at Sweet Earth Farm, and homemade cookies and tea at Mitchell Bay Farm.

Westcott Bay Cider and San Juan Island Distillery Tour

Visit Westcott Bay Cider and San Juan Island Distillery, located a short distance to the north, to tour the cider orchard and distillery producing award winning gin and apple brandy. “Taste the spirits of the San Juan Islands” at the distillery from 1 to 4 p.m.

Orcas Island Farm Tour Grows

Last year, four Orcas farms welcomed more than 125 people to their barns and fields. Organizers Charles Dalton, chef/ower of The Kitchen, and sheep shearer and farmer, Kathy Morris were excited by the interest. “We had a great time last year,” says Dalton. “We found interest growing among the farmers to get involved. Our agricultural community is really coming together.” This year, more than a dozen farms and farm-related businesses have jumped on the hay cart, with fascinating demonstrations including sheep shearing, wool spinning, seed saving, and seeing worms at work in a worm bin building demo.  This free, self-guided tour starts with a brunch available at The Kitchen in Eastsound, where you can pick up maps (or clip them out of the island newspapers) to follow the route to the farms, which will have colorful flags flying to mark the stops.

Farms along the way – starting out by the ferry landing and moving towards town and out beyond Doe Bay – include Morningstar Farm, Warm Valley Farm will show how to spin wool from the sheep they raise. At Red Rabbit Farm, Christina Orchid will show her cookhouse kitchen and offer tastes of her perserves and sauces. If you are looking for cute farm animals, the residents of Orcas Moon Alpacas are the stop for you; farmers Amy Lumm and Jenifer Pietsch will also offer a chicken slaughter demonstration; where $50 gives you a bird to take home as well. Historic Coffelt Farm will give tours. At Kai Dawg Farm, Caitlin Herlihy will talk about their new project, Orcas Community Participatory Agriculture. See a sheep shearing demonstration at West Beach Farm.

In town, Smith & Speed Mercantile will be open to share and discuss their hand-forged farming tools. Audra Lawlor of Girl Meets Dirt will offer tastes of preserves made from fruit gleaned from historic island orchards in her new tasting room.

The tour then winds out to Buck Bay Shellfish Farm, where Toni Hermanson will talk about the process of growing and harvesting oysters and clams.  Tours at Doe Bay Garden and Taproot Farm will then lead you to Orcas Farm, where George Orser will host a farmers’ potluck soiree. There will be Hogstone’s Wood Oven pizzas, a Lion’s Club/Island Hoppin’ Brewery beer garden and fun music to cap off this big day behind the scenes at the farms.

Last year, parking was an issue, so if you don’t want to use a car, the San Juan Shuttle will be available for $8 for the day, and will loop around to the farms. Car-pooling or shuttle use is encouraged, because parking can be difficult at some of the stops. The Senior Center will also be offering a shuttle for seniors interested in attending the tour.

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