Hands on Harvesting Fun
by Tiger von Pagel
The autumnal equinox has a special meaning for those of us who revere the earth and its gifts. This is the season of the harvest, and we can feel it in the cool evening air, smell it in the aroma of woodsmoke and damp soil, taste its crispness in the bite of a freshly picked apple and see its splendor in the russet and gold leaves as they fall from the trees. This time of year, perhaps more than any other, we are reminded of the bounty of the Goddess, and I think a trip made at this season should focus on the source of our daily sustenance. This can be done with a vacation to a working farm. There are hundreds of farms and ranches around the world that are designed to accommodate visitors and overnight guests, but there are especially quite a few located in Ontario, Canada.
The province of Ontario is very dependent on its local farms and does a great deal to promote farming as part of the tourist industry. There is even an organization that is dedicated to farming vacations called Ontario Farm and Country Accomodations. This group provides information on working farms where visitors are invited to stay and assist in daily chores such as feeding animals and picking vegetables. One such farm is Jamka Farm in Prince Edward County. A 100 acre family farm, Jamka Farm still relies on traditional methods for its day to day workings, and guests can experience a truly “hands-on” vacation while collecting eggs for breakfast, milking cows by hand, and feeding the farms flock of sheep. The farm is open year round, and in the spring when “baby season” begins you can be present for the birthing of lambs and hatching of chicks and ducklings. However, many people recommend visiting at harvest time when you can pick vegetables for the evening meal and ward off the night’s chill with a mug of mulled cider by the hearthfire.
Another unique harvest experience can be had at one of the many “U-pick” farms in the area. Places such as Campbells Orchards, also in Prince Edward County, have acres of orchards where you can pick your own apples and pumpkins. Other farms in this area of Ontario include Maple Ridge Farms in Picton, Eagles Rest Farm in Lanark, and Woodrow Farm and Guest Ranch in Balderson. All offer bed and breakfast accomodations and a chance to experience the simple pleasures of harvest season up close and personal.
It isn’t necessary to travel all the way to Ontario for a farm harvest experience. There are a number of farm bed and breakfast establishments right here in the Pacific Northwest. One such farm is the Normandie Farm B & B in Sequim, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula. Promoted as a little piece of French country living right here in Washington State, the Normandie Farm is most noted for its homespun wool. The proprietress is an accomplished spinner and weaver, and she gets her fleece from the sheep that are raised right there at the farm.
You can also spend a day in Bellevue at the Kelsey Creek Farm. Open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Kelsey Creek is a fully operating farm (with horses, pigs, chickens and rabbits) and offers free self-guided tours. Also of note here is the Japanese garden that is dedicated to Yao, Bellevue’s sister city in Japan. Another free self-guided farm tour can be had in the Snoqualmie Valley at Carnation Farms. This 900-acre working dairy is open to the public from March to October and is famous as the “Home of the Contented Cows”. This area is also home to a number of “U-pick” farms for your own personal harvest. Most notably are Remlinger U-Pick Farms just south of Carnation, which offers a petting farm and restaurant, and Fall City Farms in Fall City, well known for its garlic and shallots as well as apple orchards and pick your own pumpkin fields. Whether you choose a week long vacation on a farm or an afternoon picking apples, enjoy this magical time of the year that is autumn, and happy travelling always.