Fall is my favorite time of year, and nothing says fall like harvest and bounty, which fairly bursts from the seams of the fertile Skagit Valley thanks to ancient rich soil deposits from the Skagit and Salish rivers. From commercial crops to flowers, seeds, and bulbs, to private farms offering their abundance by way of CSA’s, farmers’ markets and pop-up roadside stands, a leisurely drive through the backroads off highway 20 will fill your bags and baskets with the very best.
Fall launches in earnest in the Valley with The Festival of Family Farms providing a unique opportunity to connect with where your food comes from. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, there is truly something for everyone – tours, chatting directly with the farmers, tips on gardening in the PNW (or full-on farming if you’re more industrious), learning about sustainability, and plenty of fun activities for the kids. Not to mention farm animals up close and personal, which is always a hit (even at my age). The family farms can quickly fill an entire day, so you might want to plan a weekend to take advantage of what the Valley has to offer.
Our family had a long-standing tradition when our kids were growing up to make a pilgrimage at the start of October to one of the pumpkin patches (our personal favorite was Gordon’s). We loved the goodies at their little kiosk, the animals you could pet, the corn maze, and the beautiful huge paintings that adorned the buildings. Each kid got to choose a pumpkin out of the massive field for the porch, a few sugar pumpkins for making pies for Thanksgiving, and pick out all the decorations in the form of gourds, ghosts and
princess pumpkins, corn stalks and the like. I usually made warm gingerbread and hot cocoa to bring with us. And we always ended up supplementing with some hot cider or other delicious beverage along with freshly baked goodies that were on offer. It’s a great place for kids and families to make memories and to look forward to as part of the season.
Once you’ve gotten into the swing of things hunting your perfect pumpkin, check out the Skagit Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival at Christianson’s Nursery. I don’t care how you feel about giant squash, the enormity of the results of farmers that range in age from preschool to retired is nothing short of impressive. Plus, your kids can ride a pony courtesy of Lang’s Pony Farm, navigate a hay bale maze, get their faces painted, and enjoy a variety of
Plenty of food and treats are part of the fun, and when you’re all worn out and about to bust a gut, you can head to the big league of cornfield mazes at Tulip Town. We are talking over nine acres of a cornfield carved into a massive maze. Adults and kids alike will be challenged by this one I promise. Split up the gang and cruise through the bulb shop to go a little crazy picking out tulips of every variety to bring your yard alive with color come spring. When I stopped by, being a novice in the ways of bulbs and tulips, Matthew – the very kind and informative gentleman managing the store, patiently gave me a primer on planting and tending these beauties. Be forewarned…choosing bulbs is addicting.
On your drive home, keep an eye out for farm stands like Pleasant Farms behind The Rexville, Hedlin Farms at the roundabout in La Conner, and a myriad of private mini-stands along the road that offers everything from honey and flowers to winter veggies and greens, apples and pears this time of year.
I also decided to stop at one of the Talking Fields I have passed about a million times – never quite knowing what they were. You’ll see these signs all over the Valley. It turns out, with a snap of your phone camera (or app), the QR code will take you to a website that will school you in what that location’s history and current use is. I got a little obsessed with this once I started, and spent a bit of time reading up on several of the locations – realizing how little I knew about the fields I pass every week. Pretty interesting stuff.
Of course, you can do all of this in reverse. I think if you have kids, you might want to do that. But whatever way you dive in, you’re guaranteed to arrive home feeling like a walking cornucopia. It’s a rich land we live in here.