Every farm tells a story. The opening page tribute is an act of deference to the long-standing legacy of farming, the prologue an establishment of an idea or dream. Chapter one involves plowing and sowing, both a generous helping of seeds and faith. Subsequent chapters chronicle the joys and woes as seeds germinate, buds form and blossoms open, rain or drought come or go, unwelcome diners arrive in the form of local fauna, and finally, a crescendo of growth and maturity of a cornucopia of fruits, vegetables and much more. As the chapters close, the harvest moon broadcasts radiantly in the autumn sky, and county arterials bring minivans of families clad in plaid shirts, Hunter boots, and pumpkin spice lattes, while tractors and farm trucks haul boxes and crates downslope into the city and beyond. Finally the epilogue, as countless mouths nosh on green beans and apples, pumpkins are carved into spooky designs, and Christmas trees are decked with lights and tinsel. As the book closes, memories are tucked away.
Welcome to Green Bluff, a bucolic collection of family farms diffused across roughly 12 square miles of sun-bathed rolling hills, just a few minutes outside Spokane. Founded in 1902 to bolster local berry farms against out-of-state competition, the Green Bluff Growers Association now comprises more than 30 farms, cultivating an extensive range of crops, and providing multiple other areas of seasonal and year-round interest for locals and tourists alike.
As autumn rolls on, now is the perfect time for a family excursion into this pastoral setting nestled below Mount Spokane. Farm stands are stuffed with pumpkins, squash, apples, and peaches. Fresh apple cider gurgles from an old-style press, pumpkin donuts and other treats look back at wide-eyed children, and little ones squeal with delight as they try to not get lost in a corn maze. My recent traverse of Green Bluff was the perfect chance to stock up on produce for our annual canning projects, hopping farm-to-farm to score a case of apples, or a bag of onions, or a box of green beans, like children at an Easter-egg hunt discovering different plastic eggs filled with goodies. Summer and winter squash are at the peak of perfection, warty gourds are begging to fill the front porch, sunflowers turn their smiling faces with the solar relay. Best yet, no matter how much notoriety Georgia and the South may command surrounding peaches, you have not lived until you have bitten into the juicy, rich sweetness of a Green Bluff-grown Angelus Peach.
Old Man Winter blows in with snow and hot cocoa as you try to settle on the perfect tree. Dad of course thinks the 10-foot Grand Fir will fit just fine on top of the family SUV, while one kid can’t stop swooning over the stubby little Fraser Fir that looks apt to reside on an end table, and the other kid is fixated on a towering Spruce that has stood in the far corner of the field for years. Once the tree is felled and the sleigh ride is over, it’s off to see Santa. The subsequent thaw of spring welcomes the emergence of bouquet-worthy flowers, mushrooms, greens, rhubarb and garlic. Summer shines with plump berries, tomatoes, and tree fruits. And once again, September arrives to welcome the hordes of fall festival-goers. No matter the season, visitors can find eggs, baked goods and espresso, friendly farm animals and home goods and gifts. Local craft purveyors serve fruit forward beers and ciders, floral meads and an assortment of wines. Wrap it all up, and you have a full book worthy of a sequel next year.
To piece together your own itinerary for Green Bluff, and to view the full list of farms and picking schedules, along with a map and other information, visit the cooperative website.