By Aaron Swaney Herald Writer
When Highway 530 was closed due to the mudslide near Oso this past spring, it shut off the main access to and from markets for farms in Darrington, forcing area farmers to scramble and plan out alternative routes.
Fortunately, the section of the highway buried by the mudslide re-opened in late May in time for berry farms like Darrington’s Whitehorse Meadows, which specializes in blueberries, to operate like normal.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people that don’t realize the road is open,” said Valerie Wall of Whitehorse Meadows Farm. “I drove through it (recently) and was awe-struck. It’s very amazing. I would encourage anyone to go through and come up just to see what it looks like.”
Logistically, the road is fine. It’s paved and there is no longer a pilot car guiding traffic, which is encouraged to drive through at 20 miles per hour. The re-opening of 530 means that farms like Whitehorse Meadows can get its crop to market and expect close to the usual amount of U-pickers they’ve received in year’s past. If the road had remained closed, many berry farms would have been unable to bring crops to farmers’ markets in Everett, Seattle and beyond.
Soon after the mudslide, Snohomish County invited Darrington and Oso area farms to join the Snohomish County Red Rooster Route, an association of Arlington farms and agricultural activities, free of charge. A $5,000 state Department of Agriculture grant paid for the first-year dues and for a Red Rooster Route sign to be installed at each of the Darrington-area farms taking part.
Because of the grant, which was part of the department’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program, eight farms along Hwy. 530 or in Darrington were able to take part in the Red Rooster Route this year. Those farms are Chuck’s Nursery, Red Ranch Berry Farm, Mencucci’s Food Forest Farm and Nursery, Mystic Mountain Nursery and Antiques and Gifts, Fruitful Farm and Nursery, Squire Creek Ranch, Whitehorse Meadows Farm and Cascade Kamloops Trout Farm and RV Park. Red Rooster Route Days is this weekend (see info box for details).
“The Stillaguamish Valley is home to some of the county’s most diverse farms,” said Snohomish County agriculture coordinator Linda Neunzig. “We hope everyone will follow the Red Rooster Route this summer to learn about these great farms.”
Wall hopes that the good weather mixed with the added marketing of the Darrington-area farms brings people out to the region still recovering from the deadly mudslide.
“I think it’s crucial,” Wall said of tourists visiting the area. “In Darrington they were cut off from the world for months. There was no traffic to them. Hopefully it will cause people to go up and say hello, look at things, buy things. It’s a beautiful drive. I would encourage everybody to stop at the businesses and support them.”
As for the farm itself, Wall said they are expecting a very large crop of blueberries throughout the season. Whitehorse Meadows is a certified organic farm that specializes in three types of blueberries: Spartan, Rubel and Jersey. Picking of the Spartan blueberries, which are of the large, sweet variety, started on Tuesday. Rubel blueberries, a more intense, flavorful blueberry, should be ready to pick in mid-August, with Jersey blueberries, which have a more mellow flavor, coming in a few weeks after that. All blueberries at Whitehorse Meadows sell for $3 per pound.
Red Rooster Route Days
Red Rooster Route Days is this Saturday and Sunday from 9-6 p.m. Pick up a brochure at the first location you visit, get a stamp at each Red Rooster Route location and turn in the card at the last location to enter a drawing for prizes that include gift baskets, a hotel stay and horse-riding lessons. Red Rooster Route farms will be handing out stamps throughout the month of July. The participating farms are: Garden Treasure Nursery and Organic Farm, Foster Produce and Corn Maze, Biringer Farm, Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum, Arlington Farmers Market, Ninety Farms, Bryant Blueberry Farm and Nursery, Chuck’s Nursery, Red Ranch Berry Farm, Mencucci’s Food Forest Farm and Nursery, Mystic Mountain Nursery and Antiques and Gifts, Fruitful Farm and Nursery, Squire Creek Ranch, Whitehorse Meadows Farm and Cascade Kamloops Trout Farm and RV Park. For more information and a route map, visit www.redroosterroute.com.
Bailey Vegetables: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, 12711 Springhetti Road, Snohomish; 360-568-8826; email@example.com; www. baileyveg.com. U-pick raspberries.
Biringer Farm: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, 21412 59th Ave. NE, Arlington; 425-259-0255; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.biringerfarm.com. U-pick raspberries, blackberries and tayberries.
Blueberry Blossom Farm: 8628 Fobes Road, Snohomish; 360-568-4713; www.blueberryblossomfarm.com; U-pick pesticide-free blueberries.
Bolles Organic Farm: 17930 Tualco Loop Road, Monroe; 360-805-1980; email@example.com; open daily during season from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; U-pick blueberries and raspberries.
Broers Farms: 18228 Tualco Road, Monroe; 425-248-9321 or firstname.lastname@example.org; open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through August; organic U-pick blueberries.
Bryant Blueberry Farm and Nursery: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays during harvest season, mid-July through late August, 5628 Grandview Road, Arlington; 360-474-8424; www.bryantblueberries.com. U-pick blueberries, currants and tayberries.
Donnelly’s Riverbank Blueberries and Vegetables: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, early July to November, 11827 Reiner Road, Monroe; 360-793-2114. U-pick blueberries.
Garden Treasures: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, 3328 Highway 530, Arlington; 360-435-9272; www.arlingtongardentreasures.com. U-pick blueberries, raspberries and tayberries.
Mountainview Blueberry Farm: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday beginning July, 7617 E. Lowell-Larimer Road, Snohomish; 360-668-3391; www.mountainviewblueberryfarm.com. U-pick blueberries priced per pound.
Penryn Farm U-Pick Blueberries: 10923 South Lake Stevens Road, Lake Stevens; 425-257-0453; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily from mid-July to Labor Day. It’s a 3-acre honor system farm, so grab a bucket at the office and go pick berries, then weigh your berries and leave $2 per pound in the cash box.
Raising Cane Ranch: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Everett Farmers Market, 5719 Riverview Road, Snohomish; email@example.com. U-pick raspberries.
Whitehorse Meadows Farm: 10 a.m.to 4 p.m., starting July 15. 38302 State Route 530 NE, Arlington; 360-436-1951; www.whitehorsemeadowsfarm.com. Certified organic blueberry farm with U-pick Spartans, Rubels and Jerseys.
Crescent Harbor Blueberry Farm: 2726 Laurel Lane, Oak Harbor; 360-679-4210; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.crescentharborblueberryfarm.com. Organic U-pick blueberries $3 per pound; by appointment only.
Mile Post 19 Farm: 18997 Highway 20, Coupeville: 360-678-3641; MilePost19Farm@gmail.com; www.milepost19farm.com. U-pick pesticide-free raspberries.