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Discover Whidbey’s rural character on island farms

Waiting for visitors to the Sonshine Alpacas farm in Langley this weekend are Thomas Uhlig, Hal Schlomann and Jeremiah. Seventeen Whidbey Island farms open their gates to the public Saturday, Oct. 4 and Sunday, Oct. 5, for the third annual Whidbey Island Farm Tour. - David Welton / The Record
Waiting for visitors to the Sonshine Alpacas farm in Langley this weekend are Thomas Uhlig, Hal Schlomann and Jeremiah. Seventeen Whidbey Island farms open their gates to the public Saturday, Oct. 4 and Sunday, Oct. 5, for the third annual Whidbey Island Farm Tour.
— image credit: David Welton / The Record

By Betty Freeman

Contributing writer

Harvest some fall fun, learn about local farming practices and shop for fresh produce when 17 Whidbey Island farms open their gates to the public Saturday, Oct. 4 and Sunday, Oct. 5, for the third annual Whidbey Island Farm Tour.

“Farmers are your neighbors,” said Judy Feldman, one of the tour organizers. “The purpose of the farm tour is to showcase local producers, educate the public and bring farmers together to share resources and ideas for marketing their products.”

Every year the tour engages families with hands-on activities, offering a chance to see animals in their farm homes and promoting greater understanding of how food is produced. The free, educational tour expands its scope this year with the Farm to Home Showcase at Greenbank Farm, local restaurants offering home-grown food on their menus, and a country-western dance Saturday night at Deer Lagoon Grange.

“It’s all a learning experience, giving families the opportunity to explore hidden parts of the island and to realize that their neighbors are working farmers, providing locally-grown food and products,” Feldman said.

The 2008 farm tour brochure is the guide to a weekend of fun and learning. Visitors can pick one up at local libraries and farm and garden stores, or download it from the official farm tour Web site, Click here. The brochure contains a map of the island with directions to each farm, details of each farm’s products and a schedule of special farm tour weekend events. Farms open Saturday only are indicated with a blue dot on the map.

Use the brochure to plan your tour itinerary, and note which farms offer the products or educational experiences you want.

Oak Harbor’s Case Farm offers u-pick pumpkins and end-of-season blueberries. Flower fans will enjoy Lavender Wind Farm and Hummingbird Farm & Nursery Gardens. A Knot in Thyme Farm in Oak Harbor offers wagon rides led by black Percheron horses through its holly grove and “Quilted Garden.”

Coupeville’s Rosehip Farm combines flower and vegetable growing on its diversified organic farm. The Smith family’s Willowood Farm in Coupeville, with the largest barn on the Island, has been producing naturally-grown vegetables for four generations. Pam’s Place Produce offers visitors a chance to see intense, small-space vegetable production on its half-acre plot in Clinton.

The South Whidbey Tilth Farmer’s Market is a stop on the tour this year, offering demonstrations and practical advice at its Saturday market.

Au Sable Institute offers guided tours of its 175 acres of prairie grasslands and forest.

Visitors interested in fiber art or animal husbandry should check out Sonshine Alpacas or Island Bliss Alpacas. Reinshadow Ridge is a great stop for horse and dog enthusiasts.

Sonshine Alpacas, Wildwood Farm and Forget Me Not Farm offer children’s activities. The M-Bar-C Ranch in Freeland has mini horses and a donkey to pet, plus a mini-Western town for young cowboys and cowgirls.

For adults, two wineries offer tours and tasting, Greenbank Cellars and Whidbey Island Winery in Langley.

Tours of Penn Cove Shellfish, the oldest and largest commercial mussel farm in the U.S., involve a boat ride at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday. Pre-registration for the boat rides is advised. Call 360-240-5558 or register online, Click here.

At the center of the island, and of the farm-tour festivities, is Greenbank Farm’s Saturday only, Farm to Home Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Whidbey Island craftspeople and chefs demonstrate cooking with fresh herbs and locally-grown food, making goat cheese and cosmetics, weaving and beekeeping.

Each year, local artist Stacey Neumiller donates an original painting for the farm tour brochure. This year’s painting, “Lavender Lunch on Whidbey,” will be auctioned online on eBay beginning 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4. The auction runs for seven days. In addition to the auction, a limited number of 16-by-20-inch, high-quality, matted reproductions of “Lavender Lunch” are available for $65 at www.whidbeyfarmtour.com. Other Neumiller farm-animal paintings can be seen at Greenbank Farm on Saturday during the tour.

This year, the farm tour has elected royalty. A farm-tour king and queen will visit each farm. Oak Harbor High School students and 4-H members Jake Lundstrom and Laurrin Bates were chosen to represent the tour.

Finally, kick up your heels from 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday evening at a country-western dance at Deer Lagoon Grange.

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