By Shannon Borg
San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau
In the islands, most of us know some of the farmers that grow our food. But many of us don’t often get a chance to see behind the scenes of the process that brings food to our table. For three days this fall, more than a dozen farms and farm-related businesses on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands will be open to the public, with demonstrations on everything from apple cider pressings to seed saving, highlight the amazing artisans and growers of the San Juan Islands.
There are a growing number of food experiences to experience all year round. You can’t get any fresher than shucking an oyster on the beach, or cracking a steamed Dungeness crab just pulled from a cold bay. From farm-to-table dining experiences to wood-fired oven pizza, craft cocktails, island-brewed beer and beyond, unforgettable culinary experiences await.
Many island restaurants are living by the “cook local” code. Farmers and chefs share ideas and the freshest ingredients, creating a cuisine unique to the islands. Many restaurants source from their own on-premise gardens and fields, or forage from nearby forests and shores.
In recent years, Island Grown in the San Juans, a program that celebrates farmers and restaurants in the islands, has grown to include dozens of farms, shops, farmers markets and restaurants that you can now find on the San Juan County Savor the Flavors map all year round. You can look for its label at the farmers markets, or the food co-ops and other shops. Learn more atwww.islandgrownsj.com.
But once a year, locals and visitors alike get to see where the magic happens, in the barns and workshops throughout the islands. There’s a special map for each island’s tour, which take place on San Juan Island on Sept. 9, Lopez Island on Sept. 29 and Orcas Island on Sept. 30.
On Lopez Island, the smell of fresh-baked scones from a wood-fired oven will greet you at Barn Owl Bakery on Midnight’s Farm, where you can tour a Department of Ecology-approved compost facility, and look through the microscope into the world of microbiology to discover why compost is so important for our farms, island community and our planet. At Island Fibers, learn about the breeds of sheep on the farm, and how island fleeces are used for yarn and weaving. Visit historic Stonecrest Farm’s barn and stables and learn the history of this beautiful farm, and visit the farm stand at Horse Drawn Farm.
On San Juan, both new and historic farms will be open with garden tours; homemade fruit crepes at Sweet Earth Farm, with fruit from Snowberry Farm; a historic farm implement display at Pear Point Farm; a barbecue among the goats, chickens and beautiful gardens at Aurora Farm; a tour of the garden at Dancing Seeds Farm; a visit on a horse farm at Red Roof Acres; see vintage farm equipment at Pear Point Farm; and more.
This year, 11 farms will have fascinating demonstrations including seed saving, making cord out of nettle stalks, lavender processing and more. This free, self-guided tour starts at The Kitchen, where you can pick up maps (or clip them out of the island newspapers) to follow the route to the farms, which will have colorful flags flying to mark the stops.
Farms along the way include Warm Valley Farm, with its historic barn and beautiful cutting garden. At Red Rabbit Farm, Christina Orchid will show her cookhouse kitchen and offer tastes of her preserves and sauces.
Other farms include tours and tastings at West Beach Farm, Island Thyme, Girl Meets Dirt, Coffelt Farm Stewards and Orcas Island School Garden. Tour the beautiful gardens at Doe Bay Resort and Retreat, and Orcas Farm.
At the end of the day, take part in a potluck and beer garden at Maple Rock Farm in Crow Valley, where you can celebrate the harvest season with the islands’ farmers. Car-pooling use is encouraged because parking can be difficult at some of the stops.