Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms

If you’ve ever wondered just how does that food get from farm to table, or if you simply want to channel your inner Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Oct. 7 and 8 Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms can help. It’s held during harvest season, but there’s more than gathering going on. Activities range from educational exhibits to markets to gardening demonstrations to the chance for kids to pet farm animals and run through a corn maze. (And we haven’t even gotten to the free samples.)

But the star of the show are the farms themselves: living, breathing examples of civilization’s first family-run businesses. The festival, now run as a non-profit in its 19th year, is actually a celebratory tour of a select number of farms, where the public can get a taste (sometimes literally) of the farm experience.

The festival’s mission is to promote not only the agriculture of the Skagit Valley, located in the sweet spot between hip metropolises — one hour north of Seattle and south of Vancouver, B.C. — but also to strengthen the link between farmers and the communities surrounding them. That these are family farms only adds to the interest — the next time your child bristles at taking out the garbage, you can point out that chore would be considered a picnic to a farm kid who has to, say, milk cows or muck out the horses’ stalls before school.

That said, many of these farms aren’t conventional ones. There’s a winery and orchard, a creamery and cattle (beef) ranch. Highlighted activities include waterfront farm Taylor Shellfish’s touch tank, with sea urchins and sea cucumbers, and the chance to see how oysters grow. You can watch South Fork Farms’ pettable alpacas get halter-trained, and the chance to work fiber into yarn; or check out Hedlin Family Farm’s tomato greenhouse tour. All fun, but an education, too. “You can see the evolution of small farming in a community,” said Tricia Plymale, festival executive director, who grew up on a farm herself, “and what needs to happen for that business to keep on growing and expanding.”

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More info: festivaloffamilyfarms.com

"Highlighted activities include waterfront farm Taylor Shellfish’s touch tank, with sea urchins and sea cucumbers, and the chance to see how oysters grow."