BY SEAN FLETCHER
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
Sept. 9, 2015
With the end of summer drawing near, this weekend will prove an ideal time to get outside and see the beauty Whidbey Island has to offer. And very little is more beautiful, or contributes more to the health and sustainability of the island, than its farms, dairies, and distilleries. The Whidbey Island Farm Tour is a weekend event, September 12th and 13th, that includes more than 11 unique farms, each with its own history, methods of production and inspiring scenery.
“It’s been incredibly successful for the last decade,” says Sarah Cassatt, organizer for the tour. Cassatt says the farm tour, now in its 10th year, draws people not just from all over the country, but all over the world. “We’ve had people from Texas, Florida, even Europe.” And the popularity of local farms is still growing. The farm tour aims to educate the community about local and family farms on the island, raise awareness of the contributions they make to agriculture, and assist local farms with marketing and publicity efforts for their products. In just one weekend, small farms like Rosehip Farm and Garden can see upwards of 300 to 400 people on its five acres of flowers, berries and, yes, rosehips (the fruit of the rose).
Most people come to see the beauty of the farms but leave with an understanding of just what it takes to make a family-run farm, dairy, or distillery a success year after year. It’s no walk in the park. Between rising before the crack of dawn, long days in the sun, and some years where crop yield is scant, farming life isn’t for everyone but can be appreciated by all.
Whidbey Island’s landscape is as diverse as the farms it nurtures. The high quality of locally-grown products, as well as their uniqueness, brings a literal meaning to “farm to table.” You can take home many of the products from the many local farmers’ markets held weekly during the summer. These markets, stretching from the north to the south end of the island, offer fresh local food, including a variety of farm-fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, milk and more. Many local farmers rely on farmers’ market sales, and it’s a chance to show off the fruits of their labor. Even after the summer market season is over, stores like 3 Sisters carry products from surrounding farms and dairies. Times and dates of the farmers’ markets can be found on the Whidbey farm tour website.
Eleven unique farms are featured as part of this year’s tour, ranging from Wildwood Farms’ premier horse breeding, training, and riding, to Glendale Shepherd Dairy. There is something for everyone. Visit Greenbank Farm and sample its famously delicious pies, or stroll through Ebey’s Prairie and learn the history and importance of the prairie from historian J. Adams.
The farm tour is free and starts from any farm you choose. Visit as many or as few farms as you wish, but be aware that some offer events at certain days and times, such as the South Whidbey Tilth Old-Iron Antique Tractor Meet (Saturday only) and Strawfield House, open on Sunday only. The variety of farms ranges from family-owned farms like Shipki and Rosehip, to the Whidbey Island Distillery and Abundant Earth Fiber Mill. See and learn about the 200 varieties of fruits and veggies and dozens of types of animals for meat, eggs and dairy that Whidbey Island farmers are raising.
The weather looks clear and mild for the upcoming tour. Now that winter’s gray days are closing in, there’s no better time to get out in the sunshine. Most farm events start at 10:00 a.m., so it may be wise to get an early start and see as much as possible before the crowds arrive. However early you rise, though, you can bet the farmer was up hours before you.
Weekend of Sept. 12-13, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
The tour is free, starts at any farm on the list, and you can visit as many or as few farms as you’d like.
For more information and a map, visit www.whidbeyfarmtour.com.
Sean Fletcher is an author, as well as an editor with Andrea Hurst & Associates. He spends his free time adventuring on and around Whidbey Island.
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