The popular Farm Tour offers views of a rural lifestyle unique to the Key Peninsula. Photo: David Montesino

The Key Peninsula Farm Tour returns for its twelfth year Oct. 6, including favorite stops like Bea’s Flowers and the Fiber Arts Show, and newcomers like Foxglove Farm in Longbranch and Sound View Camp near Devil’s Head.

Other highlights include a pancake breakfast at the KP Fire Department headquarters in Key Center, tours of the Minterbrook Oyster Co.  and a variety of marine rescue and environmental talks at the Longbranch Marina. (For all the details, refer to the pullout Farm Tour guide in this edition.)

The tour also encompasses a related art show at Blend Wine Shop and the Scarecrow Invasion through October, both in Key Center.

“That just thrilled me when all of these different parts of the community became a part of the farm tour,” said Danna Webster, a driving force behind the tour since its inception in 2006 and a member of the farm council planning board, which operates under the auspices of the KP Community Council. 

Leona Lisa of Bill Fold Family Farm near Horseshoe Lake is the farm council president this year. “I make a lot of soaps I sell at farmer’s markets and holiday bazaars and other events, but oddly enough the first time I bought handcrafted goats’ milk soap was on the farm tour,” she said. “I credit the farm tour for the inspiration for a lot of what we do out here.”

The farm tour invites visitors to see the operations of established farms and new ones as well. “Foxglove Farm is new on the tour this year; they will be talking about how they acquired the land, about working with the local conservation district, about how they are building their dream,” Lisa said.

“We have other types of things that people might not think of as a farm, like Minterbrook Oyster Co.,” she said. “Getting to see their operation is something that you just can’t do everyday.”

The Fiber Arts Show at the LIC joined the tour in 2007. “I realized that fiber arts is part of the farm—fibers come from farms—especially with the weavers and all the llamas and alpacas and things we have out here; it was a wonderful thing to have them participate,” Webster said.

Nancy Carr, one of the Fiber Arts Show organizers, said there will be antique tractors, furniture builders, a doll maker and traditional American basketry on display among the two dozen vendors and exhibitors inside the LIC and 10 or more outside. 

“Some of our booths don’t sell anything; they make and educate. And everything is free, which makes it very nice, and it’s family oriented; the library has its duct tape wallet booth for the kids to make,” she said. 

“The LIC marina is also part of farm tour this year,” Carr said. “Dave’s Dive Service will be there doing demonstrations and talking about what he looks for. We’ve got the fire boat coming in and the Tacoma Power Squadron is coming to perform Coast Guard-type inspections for people who want their vessel inspected.” 

And there will be food for sale at the LIC. “Ann-Marie Ugles is doing farm-to-table food for the show,” said Carolyn Wiley, another longtime organizer of both the Farm Tour and Fiber Arts Show. “I think we’ll have apple turnovers, pierogies and a squash stew.” 

Food trucks will also be operating along the tour route.

Parking is not available at every site, but shuttles will be running between them. “Partnering with School Bus Connects was huge for us.” Lisa said. “Being able to park and jump on a bus is going to facilitate people getting to the farms and keep the traffic under control.”

Gateway Park is the terminal for the northern route, which has three stops, and the Longbranch Improvement Club is the southern route terminal with three additional stops.

There are seven locations on the tour this year, including the LIC, with over 1,500 visitors expected, according to Webster. 

“This year we’ve shifted into a higher gear: Because of the number of visitors we’ve been getting, we need more county permits,” she said. “The county has been very helpful in getting all the details straight and keeping the costs down. I was prepared for it to be almost $3,000, but I think we’ll be reimbursed by PALS (Pierce County Planning and Land Services), so permitting might not cost us anything.”

Advertising and signage are also big expenses and there is the cost of providing portable toilets to some farm tour stops. “We’ve been befriended by Hemley’s Septic,” Webster said. “They deliver them and pick them up, and if a place has them already they will service them” all below market price, she said. 

“Things came along in little steps,” Webster said, describing the tour’s origins.

“What has developed into the farm tour began as a program to promote economic growth on the Key Peninsula through agritourism,” she said. “It started with Claude Gahard of Trillium Creek Winery in 2006.”

Gahard served on the Pierce County farm advisory commission representing the interests of farmers to the county council. “The county had a Harvest Fest the first Saturday of October and all the large farms in Puyallup and so on participated, but the Key Peninsula was never involved,” he said. 

Gahard saw an opportunity to promote KP agricultural businesses without being dominated by the larger farm interests in other parts of the county. 

“We wanted local control,” Gahard said. “That’s where we got the farm tour—it had its own identity under the umbrella of the Key Peninsula Community Council.” This allowed the KP farm council to plan events and raise funds without “marrying the county,” according to Gahard.

It was an important move, said Carolyn Wiley.

“The first year farm tour was funded by the county; the next year they lost their money, but some of the people out here said we’re going to keep doing it,” she said. “Being a busybody I looked at it and thought I could help.” 

Wiley raised about $8,000 from local businesses and individuals in 2007; the budget now has grown to about $15,000 with grants from The Angel Guild, Pierce County and sponsors and donors.

Leona Lisa, the farm council president, wants to build on the tour’s success.

“We’re hoping to incorporate some other ideas next year,” she said. “We’re looking to maybe expand to a two-day event. That would help the farms get more visitors, and the parks, campgrounds, hotels, Airbnbs and restaurants in the area. 

“That’s one thing that comes up a lot,” she said. “People don’t have enough time to see everything they want in one day.”

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