16th annual Clallam County Farm tour is today

Sarah Brown McCarthey

Sarah Brown McCarthey

Across this country, family farms are disappearing. Big agriculture and housing tracts are taking over — at least that’s the tired, old story out there.

But here on the North Olympic Peninsula, mom-and-pop operations — a creamery; fields of purple, green and gold; ranches with horses and alpacas — still flourish.

And this Saturday, they’re fixing to prove it by inviting everybody — young and otherwise — for some schooling.

The 16th annual Clallam County Farm Tour, a circuit of six farms just a few miles from one another, has a “how to” theme this year, along with live music, lunch by local chefs, hayrides and plenty of apples, garlic and lavender buds to take home.

“It’s a good way to see what’s happening in agriculture in the valley,” said Nash Huber, founder of Nash’s Organic Produce, where cooking demonstrations, pumpkin carving and other activities will happen during the tour from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday.

Admission to the entire tour is $10 per vehicle “no matter how many people you have stuffed into your car,” said Clea Rome, director of Clallam County’s Washington State University Extension office and coordinator of the event.

Bicyclists

For bicyclists, though, the farm tour is free. The Olympic Discovery Trail is a thread running through the western part of it, and the layout is fairly friendly: The Lazy J Tree Farm is 1.4 miles from Trade Winds Alpacas, for example, and Trade Winds is 1.1 miles from the Freedom Farm equestrian center.

The longest distance between farms is between Trade Winds and the Dungeness Valley Creamery: 7.7 miles.

And from that Towne Road dairy, it’s just under 1 mile to Nash’s Organic Produce and about 1 more mile to the Jardin du Soleil lavender farm.

“We wanted the tour to be really interactive this year, with new demonstrations of things you can do in your own backyard,” Rome said.

To start: Visitors to the Dungeness Valley Creamery can learn how to make butter, sour cream and yogurt, and at Trade Winds Alpacas, they can be spinsters for a day and learn how to spin fiber with an old-fashioned wheel.

At Nash’s, Port Angeles chef Annie McHale will show guests how to cook up in-season vegetables, and Seattle chef Diane LaVonne will teach the art of the galette, an open-face pastry.

Other demonstrations will range from tree pruning to scything to whipping up healthful snacks with kid appeal.

Community potluck

Nash’s is also the place for the annual Harvest Celebration community potluck at 6 p.m. and the barn dance, with the Bellingham “stompgrass” band Polecat, from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m.

Admission to Saturday evening’s festivities at Nash’s packing shed is $10 per person except for those 16 and younger, who get in free.

Back in the orchards at Lazy J during the day, Steve Johnson and his crew will teach apple cider-making, beekeeping and honey processing. Food and drink will be plentiful, and singer-songwriter Lee Tyler Post will provide the music from noon until 2 p.m.

At Jardin Du Soleil, the organic lavender field on Sequim-Dungeness Way, visitors can walk among purple rows, ponds, Victorian-style gardens and fruit trees.

Lessons will be offered on two topics: distilling lavender and making rich compost for a home garden.

Kids’ craft projects also will be part of the scene at Jardin du Soleil, which is French for “garden of the sun.”

Alpacas

Trade Winds Alpacas, like Jardin a relatively new stop on the farm tour, beckons with 18 big-eyed, silky-coated creatures.

They include Bella the llama, just adopted by Trade Winds co-owner Chickie Hiyoshida; Asia, a black alpaca, and her son Ninja; the pure-white Summer Cloud and her all-black daughter Summer Storm; and one paco-vicuña, a finer-boned breed of alpaca.

“People are just in awe of the animals,” with their Disney-length eyelashes, said Hiyoshida, who runs the farm with her husband, Ken, and their son, Troy.

Visitors are invited to feed them carrots and apples, and while they can be “assertive,” Hiyoshida said, “alpacas that are raised right are as sweet as can be.”

The Hiyoshida family, at Trade Winds since 2006, mentors other alpaca ranchers and those who are thinking about getting into the natural-fiber business.

They plan to put in a small mill in order to process, dye and sell the shorn fiber straight from the farm.

Both Hiyoshida and Huber noted the resurgence in old-fashioned practices, from spinning natural fibers to eating locally grown produce.

That’s what the farm tour celebrates, added Huber, who cultivates vegetables, fruit, herbs and grain on some 450 acres in the Dungeness Valley.

“A hundred years ago, we were very much into local food,” Huber said. As people look again to their local farmers, the landscape “is as interesting as it ever has been, and even more so.”

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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