Story and Photos by Diane Rudholm
Photo at right: Skagit Valley Co-op tour group savors organic blueberries at J4 Ranch in Mount Vernon, Wash.
When was the last time you stopped into Mount Vernon, Wash., to enjoy a meal or get some fresh air? Most often, Mount Vernon has been a town I drive through to hike or ski in the North Cascades. It has not been a destination.
That changed last fall. I had the pleasure of visiting Mount Vernon for a night and a day to join Skagit Valley Co-op on its annual Bike-to-Farm ride. The cycling event was part of a group of free events in Mayor Boudreau’s August Wellness Challenge, a program to promote healthy living.
After a good night’s rest at the Best Western Plus Skagit Valley Inn, I met up with 30 other cyclists at the Skagit Valley Co-op. Mayor Boudreau was there to greet everyone, doling out handshakes and smiles, and helping ensure everyone had what they needed for the ride.
We buckled helmets, checked tires and looked over maps, and rode along a mix of paved and dirt roads, through neighborhoods lined with small yellow flowers. Backed by a clear ski, Mt. Baker peeked over rooftops and trees the whole way.
Four organic farms
Our first stop was Skagit Flats Farm, where we checked out hulking onions, squash, sunflowers and a whole lot of lettuce, and learned about natural fertilizers—bird byproducts and bones, anyone?
Next we set out to J4 Ranch. We befriended curious horses and dined on pints of fresh blueberries. Besides plenty of plump berries, the farm features a Heritage Barn built in 1906 and an enormous 147-year-old cottonwood tree out front.
Ralph’s Greenhouse was next. There was no greenhouse in sight and the man who owns the place is named Ray de Vries—not Ralph—but the tour was informative and fun. Leeks are its main crop, but they also grow other veggies and flowers. Cyclists were encouraged to dig up a few purple carrots as tasty souvenirs.
Connected to Ralph’s Greenhouse was the final farm on the tour, Living Rain Farm, which is owned by de Vries’s brother John de Vries. Living Rain Farm grows plenty of spring crops to balance the offerings of Ralph’s Greenhouse. This allows the two farms to share a staff and help keep their workers employed year-round.
Back at the co-op
After our tour, I rode back to the Skagit Valley Co-op to enjoy a Thai wrap and ice cream, and to learn more about Skagit Valley’s history and offerings from Raschel Richards of the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce. The area is filled with interesting history and incredible food that makes it, in fact, a fantastic destination.
Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce: www.mountvernonchamber.com
Best Western PLUS Skagit Valley Inn: book.bestwestern.com
Whispering Firs BB & Lodge: www.whisperingfirs.com
April 1–30: Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Colorful fields and display gardens and countywide outdoor, charity and art events.
April 12: Anacortes Spring Wine Festival
Foodies can sample from 30 regional vintners and six restaurants.
April 19: 33rd Annual Tulip Pedal
Cycle around the tulip fields between Mount Vernon and La Conner, Wash., and soak up the views of Samish and Padilla bays, Mt. Baker and the Cascade foothills. The ride features 20-, 40- and 60-mile routes.