With its rural setting and open acreage, the Key Peninsula is a natural for those looking to live the life of a farmer. On Saturday, Oct. 3, many of those who chose the life of farming will open up their pastures to the general public so others can get a glimpse — and taste — of life on a farm at the ninth annual Key Peninsula Farm Tour.
But don’t think going on the Farm Tour will mean just seeing a bunch of cows and chickens — that’s selling the farmers on the KP short. The 10-12 farms slated for the tour this year run a wide gamut of products and services and stretch the very definition of what it means to be a farmer.
A favorite stop on the tour for many families is the PackLeader Farm, a dog-training facility to develop herding dogs and conservation detector dogs (trained to find specific animals such as snakes or wildcats) — and the farm includes a training and trial facility.
During the tour, PackLeader can test visitors’ dogs to see if the animals have an instinct for leading, said Carolyn Wiley, president of the KP Farm Council, which hosts the farm tour.
New to the Farm Tour this year is Four Winds Riding Center, where the proprietors will be giving vaulting exhibitions and other horse riding demonstrations throughout the day.
If all that action proves to be a bit too much, visitors can take in Bea’s Flowers, Blue Willow Lavender Farm or Kaukiki Ranch, where sheep rule the day.
“There is a lot to see, so budget your time and prioritize what you what to see, because it’s hard to do the entire tour in one day,” said Danna Webster, event coordinator for the farm tour.
The first stop for those on the tour will be at Gateway Park, where an information booth will help visitors to decide which farm to visit first. The Key Peninsula Historical Society will provide background information on how the peninsula went from logging to farming.
The second stop for most on the tour will be the fire station in Key Center for the free firehouse pancake breakfast that runs 8 a.m. to noon. With full bellies, the decision will be to head north or south to begin the heart of the tour.
Visitors can take in working farms such as Minterbrook Oyster Farm Co. to see the process of seeding, growing and harvesting oysters. And an always popular must-stop is the Trillium Creek Winery, where visitors not only experience a working winery but can taste the end results as well.
“Kids like the PackLeader Farm and the old folks end up at the winery at the end of the day,” Webster said with a laugh.
A must-see will be an event all its own, wrapped within the farm tour — the Fiber Arts Show at the Longbranch Improvement Club. The theme is Fiber Arts Threads Through Time, looking at how fiber arts have played a role in human history, from wool to thread to weaving; traditional to modern uses; and utilitarian to artistic.
There will also be live demonstrations of fly tying, an antique tractor exhibit and furniture building.
A couple of potential stops on the tour are still in the approval stage so visit the website at kpfarmtour.com for the latest updates, or pick up a tour map at Gateway Park the day of the tour for up-to-date stops.
The farm tour is run under the nonprofit umbrella of the KP Community Council, Wiley said, and remains a free, family-focused event, operating with an annual budget of $10,000. Most of that goes to advertising and marketing the tour and to pay for incidentals such as signage.
“The money goes to pay for publicity, porta-potties, permits and insurance,” Wiley said. The Farm Council accepts donations to help offset the annual costs and major sponsors — such as Angel Guild, Bruce Titus, Key Pen Parks and Pierce County Planning and Land Development — get their company names on the promotional material.
Tour officials keep track of visitors by ZIP Code and last year had more than 1,000 visitors from 44 ZIP Codes, Wiley said.
In conjunction with the farm tour, local residents and businesses are asked to create scarecrows to place along the highway for the Scarecrow Invasion in Key Center Sept. 19. Another site may be selected if the Key Center sidewalk project isn’t completed.
Prizes will be awarded to the best scarecrows based on a People’s Choice ballot. For information on the Scarecrow Invasion, call Kathy Bauer at (253) 884-1592.
The KP Farm Tour Art Show will take place at the Blend Wine Shop, Sept.1 to Oct. 6, with an artist reception 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22. Contact Wiley by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for information or to participate.
Visitors to the artist reception can then head over to the Key Center library for a Meet the Farmers event, 7 to 8:30 p.m., where many of the farm tour participants will be on hand to talk about their specialties.
All three events will serve to focus attention on the farm tour.
So be prepared to take in a lot. Just be sure to “go to KP Farm Tour time once you get here,” Webster said.