Sam Leingang works on an irrigation system at the Organic Farm School in Langley. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Sam Leingang works on an irrigation system at the Organic Farm School in Langley. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Whidbey Island Grown Week is a celebration of season’s bounty

This year’s event is Sept. 27 to Oct. 6 and features farm tours, special menus and harvest festivals.

  • Monday, September 23, 2019 5:39am
  • Life

By Maggy Lehmicke

Special to The Herald

Each year from late September to early October, Whidbey Island hosts a series of events across the island to celebrate the bounty of the season.

The 10-day celebration known as Whidbey Island Grown Week brings attention to local farmers, chefs, specialty food suppliers and artisans that call the island home. Farm-to-table dinners, cooking classes and lots of fresh produce are just a few of the perks to look forward to.

All week, restaurants, grocery stores and farmers markets partner with farms, wineries, breweries and distilleries.

Only a 15-minute ferry ride from Mukilteo, Whidbey’s culinary scene has gained traction in recent years, thanks to its agricultural heritage and contemporary dining. Restaurants such as The Oystercatcher in Coupeville, serving farm-to-table fare, and Langley’s Prima Bistro, with its French-inspired Northwest cuisine, are two of the eateries getting noticed off island.

Sustainable agriculture is ingrained in Whidbey Island’s culture, with many farms tracing back more than four generations. The island also is home to the Organic Farm School — an ecologically focused training program for aspiring farmers.

“Many of the young farmers came here to take part in the studies at the Organic Farm School and chose to start farms on the island,” said Inge Morascini, executive director of the Langley Chamber of Commerce.

Two of the farm school’s graduates founded Deep Harvest Farm in Freeland. They not only sell their produce to local restaurants and markets, but they also have a heritage seed business.

“Farming on Whidbey Island highlights the need for a sustainable, regionally independent food system,” said Nathaniel Talbot, who owns the farm with his wife, Annie Jesperson. “Island communities will be the first to feel scarcity during times when food transport is costly, or perhaps even impossible, due to global market forces or regional calamity.

Julia Beck (left) and Raelani Kesler, both farmers in training, trim tomato plants at the Organic Farm School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Julia Beck (left) and Raelani Kesler, both farmers in training, trim tomato plants at the Organic Farm School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“We’re a tight-knit community that really supports its local producers, business owners and artisans.”

Whidbey is home to about 20 farms and at least six farmer’s markets. These include vegetable, dairy and lavender farms, flower nurseries, alpaca ranches and pumpkin patches. The island is one of the main sources for butter and potatoes in the region and is home to numerous wineries, breweries, vineyards and tasting rooms, according to Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism.

“Whidbey is not a particularly easy place to farm in terms of soils, but the community is what makes farming here so attractive,” said Judy Feldman, executive director of the Organic Farm School. “Maybe it’s because the island is so beautiful, but the people here seem to readily grow relationships, and that includes the relationship with their food and the farmers.”

Whidbey Island Grown Week was started in 2009 as a celebration of locally grown and locally produced food. Over the years it has evolved, and its scope has expanded to include artisans, lodgings, venues, restaurants and markets.

This year’s event will take place Sept. 27 to Oct. 6. Self-guided farm tours, special restaurant menus and a number of other agriculture-related events will be scheduled throughout the week.

New to this year’s celebration is the Whidbey Island Harvest Festival — a four-day event featuring workshops, seminars and tastings. Classes will cover a variety of interests, ranging from small farm techniques and winemaking, to fine arts and woodworking. Local growers and artisans also will have their goods available for purchase at the event.

An organic bunch of raddishes grown by farmers-in-training. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

An organic bunch of raddishes grown by farmers-in-training. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

If you go

Whidbey Island Grown Week is Sept. 27 to Oct. 6 around Whidbey Island. Find a calendar of events, with ticket pricing and times, at www.whidbeyislandgrown.com. Or find Whidbey Island Grown on Facebook for more information.

Whidbey Island Cider Festival is Sept. 28 at Pacific Rim Institute, 180 Parker Road, Coupeville. Taste ciders from a variety of Northwest cideries, learn about cider making and, if you need your apple tree identified by an expert, bring an apple or two along. There will be live music, farm tours and brick oven pizza.

Harvest Faire is Sept. 29 at Greenbank Farm, 765 Wonn Road, Greenbank. Whidbey Island’s farming heritage is the focus of this fest featuring local products. There also will be live music, food trucks, antique cars, arts and crafts, wine tastings and a pie-eating contest.

Whidbey Island Harvest Festival is Oct. 3-6 at the Island County Fairgrounds, 819 Camano Ave., Langley. New to Whidbey Island Grown Week, the festival features agriculture-related workshops and seminars, as well as meet-and-greets with food vendors, beer and wine tastings and a showing of the 2019 farming documentary, “The Biggest Little Farm.”

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