Ever wondered how an alpaca farm works? Or why farmers cut the tops off their corn? On Saturday, the Montesano Chamber of Commerce and the Washington State University Grays Harbor Extension office offer a chance for an up-close look at the agriculture of the county.
“We constantly hear (that) people simply have no idea what was going on agriculturally,” WSU Extension agent Don Tapio said. Most people are at least a generation removed from farm work, he explained, and the annual Farm Tour gives them an opportunity to see the agricultural work going on all around them. It’s part of Harvest Celebration Week, proclaimed by the County Commissioners on Monday.
The tour is $5 per person or $10 for a family of four, and will take people to four sites: Poppy Patch Farm, which is home to dwarf dairy goats and a huge collection of antique farm equipment; Chapman Farms, which boasts a pumpkin patch as well as hay and corn mazes; Satsop Little Red School House, where “everyone will ring the school bell,” Tapio said; and New Moon Alpacas, which raises the animals for their fiber.
Tour guides will also enlighten visitors on other farms and features they pass along the way, and some farming processes used locally. According to the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture, which is the most recent, Grays Harbor County produced $33 million in agricultural products on nearly 120,000 acres.
“It may not be the largest agricultural industry in the state, but we have the highest yields and the highest quality,” Tapio said.
At the New Moon Alpacas stop, co-owner Denise Moss-Fritch said the hope is people will gain an appreciation for the different type of farming involved with alpacas.
“It’s strictly a fiber industry,” Moss-Fritch said, unusual for an animal industry. They’re more often raised for meat or dairy.
New Moon Alpacas is one of the biggest operations of its kind in the region, with a herd of 60 animals. That’s nearly double what Denise and Allison Moss-Fritch brought from Santa Clara, Calif., in 2009. There are about 250,000 alpacas nationwide, all DNA tested, microchipped and registered with the government to document their history and lineage.
Visitors on the tour will also see the fleece shorn from the alpacas and a demonstration of the spinning and weaving processes.
A pancake breakfast will be offered before the tours at the Abel House Bed and Breakfast in Montesano, 117 Fleet St. Breakfast runs from 7-10 a.m. for $5 per person. Tours leave from the bed and breakfast at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tapio recommends advance registration to ensure a seat; call 249-6002 for reservations. No private cars are allowed to follow the tour buses.
To see more agricultural operations around the county, check out the 2012 Grays Harbor Farm Map, available from any Timberland Regional Library location or Grays Harbor Chamber of Commerce offices.
It’s also available for download at visitgraysharbor.com/activities/farm-fresh-guide.