Spend a day touring farms and shopping the farm stands of Vashon Island.
VASHON ISLAND — A quick getaway from Seattle is how city slickers often look at this place. Maybe a loop around the island on a bike.
Now Seattleites come for the bounty of summer: heirloom tomatoes, French beans, and loganberries, fresh and ripe, plucked right off the farm. In shops and restaurants there’s rich and creamy Camembert cheese from a local dairy, and beef and lamb from island-raised animals. There are farm stands stocked with snap peas, zucchinis and salad bags of organic greens and edible flowers; serve-yourself coolers and fridges filled with eggs, goat-milk yogurt and cheese.
All the farm-to-table fascination has drawn a new group of foodies to Vashon Island. Those who care about “a sense of place” or where their dairy and greens come from. Vashon offers a chance to mingle and chat with some of the farmers.
There are dozens of farms here, mostly mom-and-pop operations, so the farm stands run on an honor system. Bring small bills.
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Here’s an itinerary for a one-day tour. Each stop is numbered to correspond to our accompanying map:
Ahh, Vashon coffee
After catching an early ferry, start your day with a cup of Joe at Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie (1), located in a century-old building at 19529 Vashon Highway S.W. Looks like a country general store. You can smell the coffee roasting. You can watch it roasting, too. Lean against the railing to peek at coffee beans being processed in the basement while you sip your latte. About 300 teas, spices and herbs, too. Next door is a one-room museum with coffee-related antiques.
Peas, greens, goat cheese
Grab some shelling peas and salad greens at the farm stand for the popular Island Meadow Farm (2), 10301 S.W. Cemetery Road, down a long gravel driveway from the road. Nearby sits Plum Forest Farm (3), 20020 107th Ave. S.W., where the garlic, raspberries and carrots get harvested every Tuesday and Friday, ready for sale by 2 p.m. Also, find goat-milk yogurt and goat cheese available at K-Jo Farm (4), 20602 111th Ave. S.W.
Get back on the main road, Vashon Highway, and stop at Country Store & Gardens (5), 20211 Vashon Highway S.W., where there is a u-pick blueberry patch along the driveway. Hundreds of herbs and plants for sale. Lots going on, but not overwhelming to the senses since everything is spaced out around the 10-acre spread.
If you come on a Saturday, you can hit the Vashon Island Farmers Market (6), located in the town of Vashon on the Village Green (west side of Vashon Highway a short distance north of Bank Road), from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (also Wednesdays, 2-5 p.m., through Sept. 8). You’ll find about 30 to 40 vendors of food and arts and crafts, with live music.
Good lunch spot
In town, grab a bite at the vegetarian Monkey Tree cafe and bakery (7), 17817 Vashon Highway S.W., a popular local breakfast and lunch hangout (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Huge pastries and entrees, including an almond croissant that looks to be on steroids. Bunch of free samples at the counter.
Cheese and wine
No other Vashon farmer gets more buzz now than cheesemaker Kurt Timmermeister of Kurtwood Farms (8), 18409 Beall Road S.W. He makes a spectacularly rich and creamy Camembert cheese from Jersey cows that he milks in the morning. He has just built a cheese cave to expand his cheese offerings. You need an appointment to buy directly, visit or tour: E-mail email@example.com. Or check kurtwoodfarms.com for a list of places in Seattle where his cheese is sold; it’s also available at Vashon Thriftway, in the town of Vashon.
What’s cheese without wine? Island wines are big these days. Boutique wineries dot Whidbey and Bainbridge islands. Now add Vashon to that list, with maybe two to three more wineries opening within two years.
Not far from the north-end ferry terminal, Palouse Winery (9), 12431 Vashon Highway S.W., opens 2-5 p.m. on weekends and by appointment at other times (206-567-4994). Closer to downtown Vashon is Vashon Winery (10), 10317 S.W. 156th St., where owner and winemaker Ron Irvine is among the first to make wines using grapes from the island. No tasting fee. There’s a picnic table out front if you want to bring a snack. His winery opens on weekends from 2-5 p.m. and by appointment (206-567-0055). He also makes a rare English-style hard cider.
Stop and smell the lavender
Sequim bills itself as Washington’s lavender capital, but Vashon has a handful of lavender growers who put on a small festival and other events.
Owned by actress Catherine MacNeal, Lavender Hill Farm (11), 10425 S.W. 238th St., offers u-pick (open daily until early August, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.). Look for the lavender-colored chairs nestled between rows of lavender atop a hill overlooking Quartermaster Harbor. You can relax, chat or just stare out at the water. The farm also has a small gift shop featuring all things lavender, such as oil and wreaths.
More farm stands
You need go no further to get a glimpse of the farm life or the bounty available at the farm stands. Most sell the same produce.
But more farm stands are available if you drive another 20 minutes to the Dockton area. The drive around Quartermaster Harbor to Maury Island — a land-connected adjunct to Vashon — takes you through dense forest, then along the water. A nice scenic drive.
Along the way is one of the island’s best farm stands, at Langley Fine Gardens (12), 10012 S.W. 268th St., which sells organic produce for around $3 per bunch. Some of the island’s best deals. Fragrant basil that would pair nicely with some mozzarella, or heirloom tomatoes to go with a dousing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can smell the peppery arugula.
Nearby is Dockton Park, part of a bustling waterfront community in the early 1900s. Now folks frolic on the water on inflatables or take their boats out on a lazy summer afternoon.
Other farms on the island’s south end: Pacific Crest Farm, 23720 Dockton Road S.W.; Pacific Potager, 27918 Vashon Highway S.W.; and Sun Island Farm, 7330 S.W. 248th St.
Dinner from local farms
On Fridays or Saturdays, you can grab dinner in downtown Vashon at La Boucherie (13), 17635 100th Ave. S.W., which makes braised lamb, sausage and porchetta sandwiches from animals raised on its nearby Sea Breeze Farm and vegetables from neighboring farms (seabreezefarm.net). Pretty much everything is sourced from the island. La Boucherie also serves lunch Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 2 p.m., and doubles as a butcher shop. Make an appointment to tour the farm (206-567-4628). Another dining option: The Hardware Store Restaurant (14), 17601 Vashon Highway S.W., also in town (thsrestaurant.com).
Homeward with your haul
Head back to the ferry with your bounty. If there’s room left in your cooler, make final stops at Hogsback Farm (15), 16530 91st Ave. S.W., with one of the most diverse and best selections of fresh vegetables I saw on the island two weeks ago, and GreenMan Farm (16), 8800 S.W. Dilworth Road.
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tanvinhseattle