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Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms: Weekend tour features 14 farms

Sep 28th, 2011 | Category: Events, Farms, Features

On Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1 and 2, the public can visit 14 stops during the 13th annual Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms. Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the participating farms and wineries open their doors to show their operations, talk local food and drink, give you a hands-on experience, meet animals, and more.  Activities include educational exhibits, free samples, kids activities, corn and hay mazes, animal exhibits, pumpkin patches,  and scenic tours.

A tour at Schuh Farms. COURTESY PHOTO

Participating farms this year are:

• Taylor Shellfish: Prior to its purchase in 1991 by the Taylor family, this farm started growing oysters in 1921. Now run by the fourth generation of the family, the Taylors began farming shellfish in southern Puget Sound in 1890. Festival goers can learn about shellfish farming and clean water awareness, meet shellfish farmers, and try Steamed Manila clams or barbequed Pacific oysters. Visit the touch tank, or watch the oyster shucking demonstrations and crab races The farm is comprised of 1,700 acres of shellfish beds in the tidelands of Samish Bay, with a retail store and shore side picnic and BBQ area on Chuckanut Drive.

• Golden Glen Creamery: This 65-cow (Holstein and Guernsey) dairy farm produces farmstead cheese, milk, and butter, and has a retail store, including cheddars, goudas, mozzarella, feta, cheese curds, and glass-bottled milk. Vic Jensen & Sons Dairy began in 1967, and moved to their present location in 1978. Golden Glen Creamery started in 2004 and is operated by the family. Enjoy the tractor rides and ice cream, see the animals and antique tractors and farm equipment, and check out the  artificial cow milking “Squirty Gertie.”

• Sakuma Bros. Farms: Located on 1,500 acres, this farm offers a Market Stand on 40 acres with berries, fruit trees, vegetables and seven varieties of tea plants. The Sakuma family has grown strawberries in the Pacific Northwest since 1915 and moved to the Skagit Valley in 1939. The third generation is currently farming, with the fourth joining in. Enjoy berries, apples, wagon hayride tours, and learn about fruit and vegetable crops, history of Sakuma Farms.

A young girl meets a heifer at Hemlock Highlands. COURTESY PHOTO

• Double O Ranch: Learn about calving, animal health, pasture and timber management and more on this 580-acre cattle ranch. See the animals up close, and check out samples of the beef, homemade sweet breads, jams, honey and coffee. Double O Ranch and Ovenell’s Heritage Inn was founded in 1940, and is currently run by the family’s fourth generation.

• Hedlin Family Farm: Hedlin’s 400 acres is farmed under conventional management and certified organic production, and includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers and other crops. Founded in the early 1900s by grandparents Rasmus and Pothea Koudal, Hedlin Family Farms is currently in its third generation. Participants can tour the farm and greenhouses, learn about tomato, pepper and basil production, conservation practices, and do vegetable art and veggie racing.

• La Conner Flats: Comprised of 230 acres, this diverse farm produces significant nursery stock, as well as potatoes, berries, seed crops, cereals, herbs and more. Great grandparents, Isaac and Margaret Jennings arrived in area in 1869, purchasing this farm in 1884. The first crops were oats, hay and potatoes. Tour the 11-acre display garden, see vegetable trials, and enjoy cider making and samples.

• Gordon Skagit Farms: Gordon Skagit Farms was founded in 1936 by the Gordon family, and is now run by Todd and Eddie Gordon, who grow 60+ acres of pumpkins. Enjoy the corn maze, u-pick pumpkins and apples, haunted room, paintings, willow basket making demonstrations  by Katherine Lewis, honey education booth by Bruce Bowen’s Bee’s, and more. The pumpkin contest will take place Saturday, with drop off from 9 a.m. to noon (weighing at noon). Prizes for biggest and smallest!

Fourth generation farmer Cole Gordon at Gordon Skagit Farms. COURTESY PHOTO

• Schuh Farms: This 300-acre farm features antique tractor educational hayrides, a squash talk every half hour, and a walk down the Gravenstein apple path. A “Great Pumpkin Patch” is on site, as well as activities by admission, including a corn maze, barrel train ride, and pumpkin balloon playground. This was a small farm held for four generations by the Hansen Family, and has been farmed by the Schuh Family the last 15 years.

• South Fork Farms: A small alpaca farm surrounded by more than 70 acres of Skagit Valley cropland, alpacas are raised for their high quality fiber. Meet the alpacas, do alpaca art crafts for children, see the food cart and farm-made products, as well as a walking tour and halter training demonstrations. A third generation family owned farm since the 1800s doing crop and cattle farming, the present generation is focused on raising huacayan alpacas.

• Cascadian Farm: This 28-acre organic farm in the foothills has a roadside stand with berries, homemade ice cream and more. Festival activities include a hayride tour, pumpkin decorating, self-guided walking tours, learn about blueberry pruning, and take part in scarecrow making and the U-pick pumpkin patch. The farm was founded in 1972. In 2006, managers Jim and Harlyn Meyer won the Washington Tilth Farmer of the Year award.

• Country Time Alpacas: This 5-acre farm with more than 40 alpacas, including babies, has a fiber studio and farm store featuring alpaca products including hand crafted items. Learn about alpacas, take a self-guided walking tour, and see fiber processing demonstrations. Other activities include face painting, scavenger hunt and kid’s craft.

• Hemlock Highlands: 45-acre beef cattle operation. try samples of Highland beef and sausage. Take the guided hayride, see the petting pen featuring calves, live music, pony rides, and kids coloring contests. The farm has been raising registered Scottish Highland cattle for beef and breeding stock since the early 1990s.

• Eagle Haven Winery: This 40-acre orchard has 40 varieties of apples with five acres of vineyards. The Perkins family planted the first orchard in 1972. They planted the vineyard in 2000. Check out free samples of apples, pears, cider and wine. Take a hayride, and learn about apple production and wine making.

• Challenger Ridge Winery: Founded in 2000, this vineyard offers walking tours, maps and details on clones of Pinot Noir, as well as a tasting room and bowling on Bocce ball courts. Participants can learn the process of wine making from grapes to wine.

For a complete farm map and more information, visit www.festivaloffamilyfarms.com.

Article published in Grow Northwest magazine Sept/Oct 2011 edition

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