Community Education through Farm Tours

Reader Contribution by Eron Drew
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Each region of our country has something special to offer. With a unique set of climactic and topographic challenges, the methods used to live a life in tune with nature certainly vary from place to place. That is why the idea of sustainability and farm tours is so appealing; it is a chance to see how different communities are stepping up to the challenge of creating their own solutions to the modern problem of leading lives that are re-connected to the natural world.

This is the second year our town of Leavenworth, Washington has come together to host a sustainability tour – The Sustainable Living and Farming Tour.  Spearheaded by Dave and Nancy Bartholomew, the tour has come to incorporate local farms, small business and customized homes all into a weekend long event which includes on-farm demonstrations, guest speakers (like our keynote this year Paul Roberts; author of The End of Oil, The End of Food and The Impulse Society) and a ‘tour of homes’ style self-guided tour.

Our farm, Tierra Garden Organics, is included again as part of this year’s tour. Last year, we were overwhelmed by the number of people who came to participate in the sustainability tour. Folks arrived from all over Washington, Canada, Oregon and beyond with a myriad of questions and a desire for learning. So this season, we decided to host an on-farm fall planting workshop since the tour will be taking place September 12th and 13th.

This will be one of the last chances of the year to be planting fall crops and overwintering cover crops. It will also be a chance to show people what a full production, diversified vegetable farm looks like when going into the fall and winter. Our summer cover crops will be ready for incorporation, the high tunnels will be filled with tomatoes, peppers and other cold-sensitive crops, the bees hives will be full of honey and the fall broccoli, lettuce, Brussel sprouts, etc… will be on their way to maturity. All told, it is a beautiful time to visit the farm. Also, this year, guests will be able to view the new solar array that was installed at the farm, and the layout and plans for our new efficient garden house that is currently under construction.

But our farm is just one of many sites participating in this season’s tour. Other sites will host demonstrations on working with alpacas and llamas, beekeeping, vermiculture, fermentation, edible forestry, small scale bio-char production, raising chickens or goats, community growing spaces, solar production, environmental design and construction and even some choices for sustainability-minded shopping. 

I will admit that I have been hesitant to participate in a large-scale farm tour. As a tour destination, some of the logistics (such as providing restrooms and parking) can feel a little overwhelming — especially when we are still fully immersed in the work of farming season. However, as a member of the Leavenworth community, I think it is important that tours like this happen because it cements the idea that sustainable-minded business practices and lifestyles are not ‘fringe’ anymore but are very much a part of everyday life.

The tour brings together so many families who are all working in their own way to manifest their hope for a brighter future; one that relies less and less on the global economy and more and more on the strength of local producers. And I believe strongly in education. A sustainability tour is a chance to educate the general public on the notion that small lifestyle choices can, indeed, change the world.

So, if you happen to be around Leavenworth Washington this coming September 12th and 13th, stop in and say Hi. We’d love to see you and have a chance to exchange ideas. Information and tickets for the tour can be found by visiting Simply Living Farm or by contacting us via email. After expenses, proceeds from the tour have benefited the local food bank and our local farmers market.

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