Eat, learn, nourish the hungry on Vegissimo garden tour

Stephanie and Paul Neis of Les Jardin de Deux Amis were hosts on the Veggisimo tour last year. - Photo courtesy of Shirley Collins
Stephanie and Paul Neis of Les Jardin de Deux Amis were hosts on the Veggisimo tour last year.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Shirley Collins

Here is where the eaters meet the growers and hungry children reap the benefits.

Whidbey Island Nourishes presents its third annual Vegissimo, a garden tour featuring five South Whidbey gardens.

It’s described as “a delightful confluence of enthusiastic vegetable growers and seekers of South Whidbey-grown edibles.”

The tour is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, and the growers at each garden will be on hand to answer questions and talk shop with participants.

Following the tour at 5 p.m. at Fox Hollow Farm in Langley is “The Lambolini,” a lavish lamb dinner with musical entertainment, an auction and other fun, from which all proceeds will go to WIN.

The tour includes those at Swanson Tree Farm in Clinton, where owners Lynn and Stan Swanson are busy adding a dairy and a cheese-making operation to a garden that feeds the family. The family’s new flock of sheep was purchased from famed cheese maker Sally Jackson. Their son, Erik Swanson, 22, is in charge along with a friend.

What’s growing? Cabbage, broccoli, tomatilloes, lettuce, kale, peas, onions, leeks, beets, carrots, beans and other veggies.

“This has been an experiment this year for us because we’ve never done it by ourselves,” Swanson said.

He was a member of the team of farmers at the Community Supported Agriculture training center last year at Greenbank Farm and was guided by leader Anza Muenchow.

“Anza was pretty hands-on and we got a lot of our directions from her,” Swanson said.

“But we started here in mid-January and we have a pretty nice greenhouse, where we started soil blocks and stuff like that.”

Swanson wasn’t sure what he was most proud of in the garden this year.

“The whole thing is pretty awesome. We like growing food, being sustainable. We’re not so good at it yet. We’d like to not have to buy groceries; no produce from other states, no petroleum products. And we want to have fun, of course,” Swanson added.

The Swansons hope to have their cheese-making operation producing sheep’s milk cheese by the spring. They’ll make a Spanish Mountain-style cheese under the Glendale Shepherds label and sell it at various farmers markets on the island.

Other gardens on the tour include Good Cheer Food Bank garden in Bayview. This is an intensively cultivated garden that stretches seasonal production through the use of home-made compost and hoop covers. The volunteer-tended garden added 4,000 pounds of produce last year to the community food bank.

Greenwood Garden in Langley was created by Ronlyn Schwartz who hand-built each of her many raised beds.

“Each one took two complete days to build — one day to do the work and one to recuperate,” Schwartz said.

Her garden is large and is on land she recovered from a dog run. The land was scraped of all topsoil for the dog run, so Schwartz built raised beds and planted lots of fruit trees.

Also on the tour is the Langley Community Garden, which consists of 16 family plots tended by residents with the stipulation that no produce can be sold.

Finally, the Cedar Hill Farm in Clinton is a half-acre permaculture vegetable garden with 92 raised beds and two 45-foot hoophouses. Fruits and vegetables are sold at a farm stand in summer months and to private clients and restaurants on Whidbey Island.

Currently, half the garden is planted and managed by Pam Mitchell of Pam’s Place Produce, who sells at the Bayview Farmers Market.

For those who wish to continue the day and attend “The Lambolini,” organizers have attended to the details to make the evening deliciously satisfying and fun.

The lamb dinner is being prepared by chef Kristine White and chef Bridget Charters who, along with Sean Seedlock of Clinton, developed the middle-eastern menu.

Guests will start the meal with a salad from the farm, homemade focaccia, and a white bean paté and olivada. The skewered lamb will be grilled after marinating in a blend of smoked paprika, cinnamon, bay leaf, lemon, thyme, garlic olive oil and clove. It will be served with a bulghur wheat salad that includes locally grown farro and barley, as well as a mixture of fresh garden vegetables.

Entertainment will include a unicyclist, a trio of belly dancers, singers and the Rural Characters.

The silent auction boasts a wide variety of items such as Useless Bay Coffee Company cards, tickets to the Clyde Theatre, and a stainless steel Breville espresso maker donated by Sur La Table of Seattle.

A few special event items will be auctioned after the dinner, which will be served in the garden at Fox Hollow Farm.

Cost for just the five-stop tour is $20 per person, with children younger than 18 admitted free. A $10 sandwich-salad-and-sweet boxed lunch will be available at each tour stop.

Tickets are $75 per person for the combination tour and “The Lambolini” dinner.

Special $100 patron packages are available at Cultus Bay Nursery in Clinton, Bayview Farm & Garden, In the Country in Langley and at the Rob Schouten Gallery at Greenbank Farm.

Veggissimo is made possible by sponsors Whidbey Island Bank and Puget Sound Energy.

Proceeds will go to support WIN, a community group that helps feed hungry youths  and their families on South Whidbey.

For tickets or information, call 221-6314 or visit



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