SKAGIT COUNTY, Wash — A summer program in the Skagit Valley offers visitors a way to shop local farm stands and get expert advice about preparing their purchases.
Farmstand Fresh, organized by Genuine Skagit Valley, blends traditional roadside commerce with modern technology.
15 participating farm stands throughout Skagit County have QR codes, where customers can register for a 15 minute Zoom session with a local chef or culinary expert. During the session, the customer gets advice about how to cook or preserve their farm-fresh food.
"It's a campaign to heighten the visibility of our farm stands during our summer months,” said Blake Vanfield, Director of Genuine Skagit Valley. "To take advantage of the fresh produce, the berries, the eggs, the meats, cheeses that are here. We have farm stands from Anacortes to Sedro-Wooley, from Conway to Bow."
Waxwing Farm in Mount Vernon is one of them.
"When Taylor and I started our farm, we knew we wanted to have a farm stand, we knew we wanted to sell directly to our customers and our community,” said Arielle Luckmann, who runs Waxwing with her partner Taylor Barker.
The small scale organic farm grows a myriad of vegetables, most of which are worked by hand. The care and taste have made it a beloved stop for locals.
“Her produce is so beautiful. It's definitely a special place,” said customer Annie Dlouhy.
Her partner Alan Freed agrees. "It's what we need more of,” he said.
For Luckmann, the farm stand is also a way to build community. She often encourages visitors to consider farming themselves, and teaches them about the healthful benefits of eating fresh food.
“I love being there so much and talking to my customers about cooking. It's my farm family,” she said.
As part of the Farmstand Fresh program, her customers can also get advice from an expert about 20 minutes away, in La Conner.
Albie Bjornberg co-owns Nell Thorn, a renowned waterfront bistro known for mixing European techniques with local ingredients. He's distinctly qualified to teach about Waxwing's products.
"Because we have them on the menu,” he said, laughing. "It's giving ideas that you don't normally come across and kind of spurring the imagination. I help with wine selections, too - where to find a cool wine that would go with this, or, ‘’Hey - those strawberries, you can make a cocktail with that.’ It's not just dinner, we can also incorporate some other ideas into the program as well."
Vanfield said the Skagit Valley is home to more than 90,000 cultivated acres, producing more than 80 commercial crops. She hopes Farmstand Fresh will help locals and visitors experience the full range of food offerings, from farms to culinary expertise – all in an undeniably beautiful setting.
"It's magic Skagit. That's the best way to describe it,” she said. "My commute to work is down country roads and I would never change that."
Farmstand Fresh runs from July through August. Chef Zooms are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. Visitors can also register to win prizes like hotel stays and restaurant gift cards.