If there’s one thing that brings north and south islanders together every year, it’s Whidbey Island Grown Week.
From Friday, Sept. 27 through Sunday, Oct. 6, life on each side of Greenbank takes a time-out when island farmers, chefs, winemakers, artisans and specialty culinary creators work in tandem to highlight the unique Whidbey lifestyle.
Along with the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, hundreds of participants and supporters will be participating in everything from farm tours to harvest parties, cooking demonstrations and farm-to-table dinners.
Farm tours during WIG Week offer rare glimpses into the inner workings of island life, starting with the Farm to School Open House Friday afternoon, Sept. 27. Students and their families are invited to romp the grounds of Bell’s Farm and Eckholm Farm to see honeybees, livestock, fruit groves and fields of autumn veggies.
Salty Acres Farm, in conjunction with Slow Food Whidbey, welcomes visitors to tour their farm with turkeys, pigs and chickens, and to explore the Penn Cove beachfront, home to oyster, mussel and clam beds.
The tour also includes a chance to learn about sea-salt production and for visistors to make their own blend of salts to take home.
Cider making and tasting gets center spot during WIG Week, with the largest festivities taking place at the free Whidbey Island Cider Festival in Coupeville. It spreads across the grounds of the Pacific Rim Institute and includes cider pressing, live music and brick-oven pizza as well as adult cider tastings for a fee.
The family-friendly Harvest Faire, located at Greenbank Farm, features cider pressing, along with local produce, made-from-scratch pies, art, music, kids activities and plenty of food from local culinary artists. The event is noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29.
Whether it’s farm-to- table, farm-to-barn, or vine -to-wine, the dinner table gets lifted to holy heights during WIG week. Some of the island’s most celebrated chefs, growers and winemakers create pleasure on a plate for those lucky enough to snag a seat at one of the four communal supper tables.
Two of the dining events feature the culinary skills of Michael Tu, owner of Welborn Farm in Greenbank.
Tu, with chef and wife, Maggie McGovern-Tu, have raised heritage-breed Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs since 2013. Their commitment to humane animal husbandry and stewardship of the land includes giving the pigs free roam on six acres of forest and pasture and allowing their sows to farrow comfortably in the property’s 100-year-old barn.
Tu will prepare a farm-to-table dinner at Kettle’s Edge Farm Sept. 30, along with Tyler Hansen from The Oystercatcher, and assistance from Serendipity Catering.
The following Friday, Oct. 4, Tu heads to Bayview for a winemaker dinner at Farmer & the Vine, where he serves as head chef throughout the year. The WIG Grown dinner pairs Whidbey Island Winery and Welborn Farm for a five-course dinner featuring fresh ingredients from farms across the island.
Bell’s Farm teams with Fred and Barb Bennett of Shonuff Foods for a farm-to-barn dinner on Oct. 6. Vincent and Tyla Nattress present a gourmet feast Sept. 29 using earthen cookware and serving pieces from Robbie Lobell of Cook on Clay.
On the earthy-art scene, Earth2Art Studio makes its debut during WIG Week this year. Newcomers to the island, owner-makers Rayna and Rick Hahn will hold an open studio Sept. 29 at their Greenbank property.
With a clear vision for fashioning functional art from stone and wood, the couple creates bubbling rock fountains, one-of-a-kind stone bird baths, driftwood art, and handmade centerpiece vases and bowls made from Pacific Northwestern stone.
Classes during the 10-day event include a soy candle-making workshop at Lavender Wind on Oct. 3, as well as a plethora of eclectic workshops, demonstrations and classes during the associated Whidbey Island Harvest Festival running from Oct. 3-6 at the fairgrounds in Langley. Screening of “The Biggest Little Farm” film is a highlight of the festival, followed by a discussion led by Stephen Williams from Fox Tail Farm and Annie Jesperson of Deep Harvest Farm.
Beth Herrild from Whidbey Island Grown explains that a vital component of Whidbey Island Grown is to increase awareness and consumption of agricultural products grown on the island.
“The members are dedicated to providing goods and services for Whidbey Island visitors and residents while preserving a sustainable rural lifestyle,” she said.
“One of the most wonderful aspects of WIG Week is how WIG’s members work together to support each other.”