Fields of delights

In recent years, no sector of Jefferson County’s economy has been more vibrant and innovative than the county farms.

From small patches of leased land to sprawling family farms, everyone, it seems, is growing fresh, organic foods and crafting them into gastronomic wonders. Cheese, breads, ciders, wine and all kinds of local fruit and produce are featured now on area restaurant menus, at farm stands, farmers markets and mainstream grocery stores. Eating locally has never been easier or more delicious.

To get a close look at the farms and sample some of these local products, there’s no better opportunity than Washington State University Extension’s Jefferson County Farm Tour, this year featuring 24 farms.

WSU’s Small Farms Coordinator Kellie Henwood is heading up this year’s Farm Tour and she said she’s excited by the growing number of farms on the tour and the number of partnerships the tour is generating. For example, Edible Seattle is stepping up to sponsor an Edible Pedal, which encourages bicycle tourism.

“We’re encouraging people to do the farm tour by bicycle,” Henwood said. Chimacum High School’s campus will become a campground for bikers. “They can set up their tent and call that their home for the weekend. That’s going to draw a lot of people from other counties,” Henwood said.

The tour this year is split into two, one-day segments.

From 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, only fiber farms will be open to tour. This is the first year that farms raising sheep, llamas, alpacas and other fiber animals will be included on the tour and six farms will be featured.

Then, on Sunday, Sept. 15, all the farms are open for touring. That includes the fiber farms, as well as farms featuring produce and specialty products, like wines and ciders.

Another new feature this year, Henwood said, is the showcasing of three aquaculture operations: Hama Hama Oyster Company, Discovery Bay Shellfish and Quilcene’s Big Quil Enterprises, a 4-H student-led business.

While people often think of fields, farmhouses and pastures when they think of agriculture, aquaculture actually is a bigger business for Jefferson County with 1,200 acres in production.

The tour features three local hubs of information and activities. In Port Townsend, the Port Townsend Food Co-op will be information central for the north end of the county. Other information and activity hubs will be the Chimacum Farm Stand, at 9122 Rhody Drive, and the Quilcene Village Store. All locations will offer information, free farm tour guidebooks and biking maps.

Although not technically part of the tour, the Chimacum Corner store will be alive with all kinds of activities. In cooperation with Edible Seattle, the store will roast three pigs from Moonlight Farms in its parking lot from 4-7 p.m. on Sept. 14. Chef Dan Ratigan, from the Resort at Port Ludlow, will cook all the side dishes in the same pits, using local produce. Tickets for the pig roast are $15. A beer, wine and cider garden featuring local beverages will sell drink tickets for $5. Those sales will benefit WSU’s Small Farms program. On Sunday, the weekly farmers market will take over the corner in a continuing festive atmosphere.

“The overall emphasis of the farm tour is promoting the bounty of Jefferson County,” Henwood said. “The farm tour is a chance to learn about various growing practices, to discover what makes this part of Washington unique and for people to connect with where their food comes from.”
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