Most people go an entire lifetime without talking to a farmer face to face. Most people don’t know where an apple really comes from (apart from the pile at the grocery store). And most people never have a chance to see, up close and personal, the pig that becomes their pork chops. But then, most people don’t live in or near Whatcom County, and therefore can’t take advantage of the Whatcom County Farm Tour, coming up on Saturday, September 13, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. But you can!
I’ve been lucky to preview some of the participating farms, so here’s the insider scoop: it’s going to be a blast! Everybody should pile in a car or on top of a bike and hit the road for a super-fun day in the country. Where else can you learn how to make cheese or how to harvest and store your backyard fruit, make friends with a piglet, pick some crispy sweet apples, and find out where mushrooms come from—all in one day?
The farmers on the tour are opening their gates to the public, sharing their knowledge and even creating fun activities for the kids. The idea for the tour comes from our friends at Sustainable Connections, as part of their Eat Local Month, and the purpose is to connect people who eat food with the farmers who grow it. This month, restaurants, markets and consumers commit to purchasing, eating and serving more local food, so we can all “stay connected from farm to fork.”
What’s more important than knowing where your food comes from? Not much, I daresay. And here in Whatcom County, we are beyond fortunate to have productive farms growing a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, raising animals to produce meat and milk, and cultivating beautiful flowers, shrubs, and shade and fruit trees for our home gardens.
Here’s some of what’s in store on the Whatcom County Farm Tour:
Cloud Mountain Farm Center: If you’ve never been to Cloud Mountain Farm Center, make sure you go. They grow a variety of fruits, including apples, Asian and European pears, kiwis, and wine grapes. They are hosting a workshop on harvesting and storing fall fruit at 10:30 on tour day, so you might want to start things off here. All day long, there will be tastings and self-guided tours of the entire farm. The nursery will be open if you have questions about plants and shrubs, or want to take some home. Interns and staff will be out in the fields to answer all of your questions. New this year: a Farm-to-School slide show and demo of Cloud Mountain’s processing facility, where produce is prepared for delivery to Bellingham and Nooksack School Districts. At Cloud Mountain Farm, which is now a nonprofit community farm and education center, there is a lot more going on than I can convey here—but look for more in-depth stories about this amazing gem of a place in the future!
Cascadia Mushrooms: Stop here for a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at how mushrooms are grown. Tour the growing room, and learn how the organic shitake, oyster and golden oyster mushrooms are cultivated. (Note: Cascadia Mushrooms is located south of Smith Road, not north, as indicated on the Farm Tour map.)
Bellewood Acres: So much fun is planned for the farm tour! U-Pick apples will be ready to pull right off the trees, and the Bin Train will be revved up and ready to take you on tours of the apple orchards. Get lost (and find your way back out) of the corn maze (or is that “maize”?), shoot corn out of the corn cannon (that’s a new one!) and taste, taste, taste. Try some of the 20 varieties of apples grown on the farm, along with fresh apple cider, apple cider syrup and vinegar, freshly ground peanut butter, and honey roasted peanut butter (which they sold 11 TONS of last year—it’s big yums!). Pair apples with the peanut butter, caramel dip, cheese or enjoy on their own. If you’re 21 and over, stop by the Bellewood Distillery for some spirited tastings. Since fall is in the air, apple cider donuts or a piece of apple pie could really hit the spot—and at Bellewood, you can have some of each during the Farm Tour. Plus, they will have live music all day. Everyone will have a blast!
Appel Farms and Cheese Shop: Stop at Appel Farm’s brand-new, beautiful Cheese Shoppe and you can see cheese-making demonstrations, take a self-guided tour and participate in a scavenger hunt for kids of all sizes (win prizes!). Taste the gouda, cheddar, feta and squeakers, and meet the dairy cows who work so hard to give us our cheesy delights.
Heritage Lane Farm: Here’s where you can meet the aforementioned piglets! Heritage Lane raises pigs and sheep, focusing on heritage breeds that have come close to extinction, like Large Black, Mulefoot and Tamworth. It’s easy to imagine these animals running around in, say, John Adams’s or George Washington’s backyards. Everything about raising them is different from what you may know. For example, they eat more grasses (even home-grown barley sprouts) and fewer grains than conventionally raised pigs. Heritage breeds are leaner and more flavorful, too. Stop by Heritage Lane Farm during the tour, learn all about the pigs and have fun with a scavenger hunt.
Between Farm Tour stops, you’ll see lots of opportunities for fun and delicious add-ons, like roadside stands selling corn and dahlias, garden centers and nurseries, and Good to Go Meat Pies, which is right in downtown Everson (on the way to or from Cloud Mountain Farm).
For Farm Tour stop descriptions and a map, pick up the Farm Tour & Eat Local Month Guide, available at the Community Food Co-op’s two locations, Whatcom Farmers Co-op, Haggen stores, and Bellingham and Whatcom County libraries and visitors centers. Or, just take a look at the map below, choose your first stop and pick up your guide there.
Whatcom County farmers work tirelessly to produce the best food they can—and we can help them continue doing so by purchasing their fresh-from-the-farm products and of course, visiting them during the Farm Tour!