The Farm Tours of the San Juans has become a very popular event for the islands. Made possible in part by an agri-tourism grant, visitors and locals are invited to spend the weekend touring farms, sampling goods, watching demonstrations and getting to know their farmers.
Have you heard the adage about how inviting people over to your home is a great way to get you to clean up the place? That certainly applied to us this month, as we took on just about every corner of the farm, spiffing things up, organizing equipment, raking yards and securing fences. We even moved animals just the day before the tour so there would be minimal poop in the fields for onlookers (that's called going the extra mile, Eric and Amy!).
Below, Amy lures the petting zoo goats to their new spot. All it takes is a bucket full of kibble!
Last year, we didn't know what to expect, and so grossly under-estimated how many people would come through. This year, we were ready. We had upwards of 700 people visit the farm Friday through Sunday. We fielded hundreds of great questions, and our goats got about a million hugs.
Special thanks to Lula the Aussie for making sure that everyone respected the difference between trash and recycling. We also extend much heartfelt appreciation to Lum Farm volunteers : Darryl and Pi for being our parking angels and Jen for being our greeter; Jasmine, Lucy, Emma and Elsa were our petting zoo wranglers; Sidney, Shannon and Kari welcomed folks down in the goat dairy.
Bean realized her calling as a Greeter Goat. She much preferred mingling with the visitors to being a mere creature in the petting zoo. We are debating making her a sandwich board to wear next year - one side with the "Bean's Vanilla" label and one side simply advertising "No, I'm not pregnant," as this was an oft-asked question.
After being greeted by Bean, visitors usually headed straight to the samples.
Crystal (pictured above) and Shannon cheerfully handed out over 1500 cheese and ice cream samples. We got to rev up the ice cream display freezer, which is the source of how this whole ice cream venture got started (visit this blog post for the story). At the end of each day us farmworkers had fun playing Ice Cream Shop, serving ourselves generous scoops from the remaining samples.
If we go by what was left at the end of the weekend, Blackberry was the clear favorite, followed by Coffee.
And to shout out Crystal and Shannon one more time, on top of all that ice cream and sample-giving, they also made enough cheese and cajeta to keep the farmstand fridge stocked through the whole event. I'm happy to report that today they are taking the day off.
We also opened up areas of the farm that aren't usually accessible to visitors. Visitors that ventured down into the farm were introduced to Ollie and Sweetie the pigs and their brood. Since it was a hot day, the pigs enjoyed occasional showers via friends who weren't afraid of being in the splash zone.
We especially love sharing the farm with kids. Their curiosity and honesty make for the best questions. I personally was asked questions on the broadest spectrum -- everything from "can I be a goat?" to "how do you get the animals to the place where they are killed?". Yes, that last one is a hard one. But it is part of figuring out the cycles that happen on a farm, how to caretake the land and animals with compassion and integrity, and how we are connected to our food. It is a privilege to help kids (and adults) untangle it all.
To zoom in on the "can I be a goat" question - all one has to do is make passable goat sounds and stick their head in the milking stanchion, if one has the nerve...
Thanks to everyone who joined us this weekend! We were thrilled with the turnout and the chance to celebrate island farms.
Here are links to the other Orcas Island farms involved in the tour. Keep us all on your radar and treat yourself to the best kind of food -- locally and sustainably grown!
Orcas Community Participatory Agriculture at Fir Peach Farm
Keep the first weekend in October on your calendar for next year!
(Annie and Eric enjoying the Farm Tour Afterparty)