Giving thanks for island farms

Submitted by the San Juan Makers Guild.

This fall the Islands saw a great response to the annual Farm Tour.

September and October had more than 500 people out visiting island farms on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez and enjoying a preceding online film and discussion. Spanning three weekends on three islands, children, parents and seniors explored diverse farms to see where our local food comes from. Each island had 9-12 sites to visit with a full weekend of immersive choices. Meeting farm animals — and protecting your buttons from gregarious goats or chasing chickens with little chance of a successful grab — were popular activities with kids. Guests of all ages enjoyed tasting fresh-pressed cider, soft and creamy goat cheeses, galettes and pies made with local orchard apples, and hot-from-the-oven bread infused with local pesto or fruit.

Out at the historic Orcas Farm, George Orser was busy custom harvesting produce direct from his CSA garden when the demand for produce at the farm stand quickly outstripped the already harvested supply. At Barn Owl Bakery on Lopez, guests learned about the social food activism that inspires Sage and Nathan Dilts to not only bake healthy multi-grain bread but also collaborate with local farmers to grow 50% of the grain they use in their delicious bread. On San Juan, Aurora Farm’s centerpiece was a vintage pickup truck filled with farm-grown pumpkins, and at Krystal Acres alpaca farm there were also angora goats from Stillwater Ranc.

West Beach Farm on Orcas saw a Sunday influx of young children thrilled to witness the shearing of sheep and happy to take home produce from the market garden. On Lopez, Watmough Bay Farm shared their process of starting a new farm from scratch, while island activists on the 51-year-old S&S Homestead Farm and at Midnight’s Farm discussed ways to meet climate mitigation goals by eating locally and seasonally, composting, sequestering carbon in the soil or using renewable energy. Vineyards and winemaking were featured topics and tasting experiences at Lopez, San Juan and Orcas Island Wineries.

And what would a farm tour be without delicious food to enjoy? Tim Barrette of Market Chef offered beef or zucchini burgers with local ingredients from San Juan Island and Lori Ann David of Aurora Farm hosted sold-out sit-down farm-grown dinners in a welcoming barn. Chef John Ratza of Setsunai on Lopez provided a convivial four-course meal in Midnight’s Farm historic 1918 barn using meat and produce from the farm. And great blends of heirloom apples were pressed into delicious cider at Slanted Apple on Orcas and Fruit City on Lopez.

To ensure people from all walks of life and abilities had access to farm tour experiences or products, the One Canoe local food access program provided produce to senior, disabled or limited income islanders including families with young children. One Canoe increased participant purchasing power through free farm stand coupons, boxed pick-ups or at-home deliveries. This non-profit program made a direct investment of $4,835 in direct purchasing from island farms during the tours. Disabled access at farms enabled wheelchair visitors to participate and make purchases, and volunteers helped with produce pick-ups to connect food and families or delivered food to the homebound.

Easy ways to continue to enjoy the bounty from local farmers include:

• Purchase local produce and foods at island foods coops, farm stands and markets.

• Order direct from farmers through the San Juan Islands Food hub,

• Make a donation to the Farm Fund managed by the San Juan Island Agricultural Guild,

• Join a local CSA subscription program and shop at the Farmers’ Markets in season.

The 2021 tours were funded in part by the San Juan Islands Conservation District thanks to a County LTAC grant with support from the SJI Agricultural Guild and the Makers Guild, local farmers, and sponsors. Farm Tour news is available year-round at