Editor's note: If you're looking for pumpkin farms and corn mazes, find our behemoth list here! Also see our calendar for week-to-week events.)
There are few places in the world that can boast the kind of cornucopia that the Northwest so naturally produces. It's the soil, the air, the water, the rich farmland — it all adds up to a bountiful harvest worth celebrating. In addition to all the fun pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and haunted farms, this time of year is the perfect time to connect with where our food comes from and to look back to the farm-to-table existence our predecessors relied on. More importantly, this is a great time to share it with our kids. Here are 7 ideas.
1. Make your own cider to benefit City Fruit
Sunday, September 30, noon–4 p.m.
Grab a box of your homegrown apples and head to West Seattle Nursery and Garden and make some cider using City Fruit's cider press. City fruit is dedicated to educating and assisting the public in utilizing an abundant and often neglected resource — urban fruit trees. No apples? No problem. In the spirit of sharing City Fruit will have plenty from their last gleaning. Kids will love to make their own cider, and adults will enjoy sampling some hard cider. Stumbling Goat Bistro will be offering up pies for sale and the proceeds benefit City Fruit. This is a perfect opportunity for city kids to get a real hands-on experience with sustainable food production — right from their own backyard.
2. Apple picking at Jones Creek Farms, Sedro Woolley
U-pick September through November. Harvest Festival October 19–21
With a whopping 100 varieties of apple, Jones Creek Farm is a picky-picker’s paradise. They also offer pears, garlic, tomato plants and plums. U-pick is available anytime during the harvest season from September to November, but October 19-21 is the Harvest Festival. The festival offers the usual fun of pumpkin picking, hay rides, hot fresh cider, music, entertainment and food. Check its calendar of events to know what is ripe for the picking before you head up there.
3. Fungi Family Ecology Tour, Seattle
Saturday, October 6, 2012, 10 a.m.–noon
Due to the return of the wet, fungi are also abundant in the fall and it's a great time to explore them. Washington Park Arboreum is hosting a nifty family ecology tour that explores the diversity of fungi and mushrooms scattered around the forest floor. Participants will search for as many different kinds as they can find, try their hand at identifying some and marvel in mysteries of these fleshy forest dwellers. 206-221-6427
4. Festival of Family Farms, Skagit Valley
Saturday–Sunday, October 6–7
Road trip with a purpose. Take the kids on a tour of family farms — let them see where and how their food is grown. The farms on the tour will have kids's activities, educational demos, corn and hay mazes, animal exhibits, produce and products for sale and lots of good real-life farming fun. The tour is free, but a $25 VIP pass can get you perks, samples, freebies and a big dose of feel-good.
5. CiderFest, Vashon Island
Saturday, October 13
Start your day with a ferry ride and head to Vashon Island for the annual CiderFest sponsored by the Vashon Maury Island Chamber of Commerce. There you can enjoy a cider press demo, an apple crisp sale, kids’ activities, a scarecrow contest and a sweet and hard cider tasting hosted by the Northwest Cider Society. The Vashon Island Fire and Rescue holds their Annual Family Open House at the same time with safety information and fun hands-on activities for kids. Be sure to take some time to soak up some island charm — local merchants participate in the festival. If you’re not in a hurry to get home, stay for the old-fashioned Barn Dance at the Open Space for the Arts.
6. Lattin's Country Cider Mill & Farm, Olympia
This small family farm is open year round and has it all — a play area, a maze and a farm market featuring award-winning apple cider, eggs, fruit syrups, dried fruit, honey, jam, smoked salmon, meats, cheese and perfect for fall — ready-to-bake frozen pies. On the weekends they serve up apple fritters alongside their usual baked goods. Buy some food in the farm store and feed the animals — goats, chickens, roosters, pigs, calves, bunnies, and lambs. Their Apple Festival celebrates the harvest by adding tractor-drawn wagon rides, a pumpkin patch, bluegrass music and more.
7. Country Village, Bothell
If you haven't been here before you need to add it to the top of your to-do list. Although it is a year-round shopping complex, it really shines in the fall and winter. Meandering paths weave through quaint antique and gift shops, restaurants and other businesses in an atmosphere that instantly lowers your heart rate and slows your pace to a stroll. Kids can ride the Iron Horse Railway, check out the duck pond or play on the pirate ship. Check its website for seasonal events like the craft fair, harvest festival and Octoberfest.
Bonus resource: Slow Food Skagit River Salish Sea, a chapter of the Slow Food organization, has one of the best resources around for getting involved in the rich farm-to-table experiences our area provides. In particular, its Local Food Buyer's Guide is a comprehensive list of farms that offer tours, welcome visitors, or have stores on site.