Content by Toni Shiurba and Photos by Nikki Schroeder Published on August 11, 2017
Down to earth, is a way to describe easy-going, no-nonsense, practical people. And on October 7 & 8th 2017, you’ll have an opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best farmers and ranchers San Juan Island has to offer at the San Juan Island Farm Tour. Visit San Juan Vineyards and harvest Siegerrebe, Aurora Farms and learn about heritage breeds, Heritage Farms and see a draft horse demonstration, Wild Bird Bamboo and learn to grow and use bamboo, and Sweet Earth Farms and enjoy a cider pressing. You will tour and experience some of the finest Washington farms the Pacific Northwest has to offer!
The San Juan Island Farm Tour
The San Juan Island Farm Tour will take you for a spin around vegetable farms, sheep and livestock ranches, grape vineyards and various fruit and nut orchards. This is an educational opportunity to bolster the agricultural community and support locally grown and produced commodities. These farm folks are practicing conservation and sustainability.
The price of the tour is $15 per person, $25 for a family of 2-4 people and kids under 12 are free.
Plant and flower cultivators can show you their unique methods of coaxing life from seeds and transplants. Reaping the finest harvests from their crops may seem like some kind of magic. And actually, it is. But you can learn all skills, so pack a notebook and turn on your inner video camera. It will be a wild, informative ride!
Maybe you’ll get a glimpse of how to use herbs to put the brakes on pesky, pest raiders. From slugs and insects to nimble, masked marauders and doe-eyed chompers, there are many tactics you can put into action. Jot down your questions and bring them along. Not only will you learn the answers, but whatever puzzles you benefits everyone present.
What’s a Farm without Farm Animals?
Perhaps you are curious about the care of chickens that lay your morning eggs. Featured on the right is Nikki’s mom’s favorite chicken, Karen. She’s the leader of her coop. Did you know that they are omnivores? They love plants and grains and all kinds of juicy bugs as snacks. Meat scraps, fat and dairy products are on their “please, some more sir,” list. Here’s a puzzler for you. What kind of chickens lay brown eggs? I think you’ll be surprised to learn it’s not any particular breed or just the organically fed birds. It’s the ones with red earlobes. Say what?
If you have a chance to tour a cattle ranch, the toils of growing and harvesting the hay will be revealed. I love seeing them rolled up like big jellyrolls dotting the pasturelands in the summer sun.
Here’s an unusual fact. In wild, mountainous states like Montana, coyotes are a real threat to sheep ranchers. In an effort to curtail shooting them, environmentally savvy farmers are employing a new sheriff in town. Llamas!!! Llamas make great sentries for a flock of chickens or mob of sheep. Yes, when the flock is really big, they are referred to as a mob. Llamas have keen eyesight and a sharp awareness of their environment. An intruder can be startled by their eerie alarm cries, head butted or kicked at.
This “can I get some respect” message is loud and clear and the offender is most often run off. Llamas can also protect chickens and goats from predators such as foxes and dogs. So, while their soft wool makes great winter scarves and hats, their attitude can be quite formidable.
Every Farm is Unique
If wine tasting is on your list, then touring the San Juan Vineyards will spark your taste buds. This scenic vineyard welcomes visitors to taste their award winning wines in an 1895 schoolhouse that is “tres magnifique”.
Each farm and ranch operates using practices that are supportable and ingenious. Oh, and to make the excursion even more inviting, there will be food! Last year, you could walk in an edible forest. Anyone picturing gumdrops and lollipops? Well, not quite. But how about sliced kiwis, homemade goat cheese and hazelnuts? Thirsty? Quench those parched lips with some freshly squeezed apple cider. Home roasted coffee and scones, anyone? You get the drift.
Homegrown goodies prepared by loving hands are packaged and ready for sale at each location. For a small price, brunches, lunches and even dinner and live music (on Orcas Island) round out the adventure.
Can’t Make the Farm Tour?
No worries! You can still experience the fruits of their harvest. On October 22nd, Eat Island Grown features fresh Island-grown products artfully prepared by local chefs for your pleasure. This events starts at 12:00pm and ends at 4:00pm at Brickworks – just a block away from the inns. So don’t miss out! There is no cost to attend. Just bring yourself, good cheer, and an empty stomach.
For more information about the farms tours on San Juan Island, Lopez or Orcas, contact San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild at 360-378-0095 or the San Juan Islands Conservation District at 360-378-6621.
So Cruise on Over to the San Juan Islands
Bring families and friends. Let curiosity be your guide to seeing how some people are creating a better future for us all through agriculture. Stay at the Tucker House Inn and experience our “green” style as well. Our team will even serve you breakfast featuring local fare. We proudly boast our own little garden where we source many of our garnishes, vegetables, and fruit.