An annual farm tour highlights Skagit County's diverse agriculture this weekend, with examples as varied as dairies, vegetable farming, alpaca wool, beef and shellfish.
The Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 4 and 5, at a dozen locations around the county. It's a free self-guided tour and the participating venues — some of which aren't always open to the public — provide insight into farming and agriculture.
Visitors will get a first-hand look at farm operations, including guided tours and demonstrations. Many of the participants offer their wares for sale, from fruits and vegetables to cheese, wine, shellfish and flower bulbs. Most of the events are free and some sites feature free samples and food or other items for sale.
Many sites offer special programs and activities for children, including hay rides and corn mazes.
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Among the venues this year are the Samish River Dairy with its Golden Glen Creamery, where visitors can practice milking with Squirting Gertie the cow, see antique farm implements, take a tractor ride and get close to the animals in a petting zoo. It's located at 15098 Field Road in Bow.
Also on the tour is Taylor Shellfish at 2182 Chuckanut Drive, a shellfish-farming operation that truly shows the breadth of Skagit County agriculture. There, you'll see crab races, oyster-shucking demonstrations, and educational exhibits including a touch tank run by Western Washington University's Shannon Point Marine Center near Anacortes.
At Hemlock Highlands Ranch, 8110 Sims Road in Sedro-Woolley, visitors will marvel at the shaggy coats of Scottish highland cattle — including calves — and take a hay ride through the pastures. The farm also features a Scottish fiddler on Saturday and bagpipers on Sunday.
Other highlights include Gordon Skagit Farms 15598 McLean Road in Mount Vernon, with its corn maze and a spectacular view of Mount Baker in clear weather. South Fork Farms, 19115 Dike Road in Mount Vernon, features alpacas and wool-spinning demonstrations, among other activities.
For a full list of participating sites, including maps and directions, go online to festivaloffamilyfarms.com or call 360-421-4729.