Shearing of woolly sheep…
Whizzing down a giant slide…
Riding around a horse-drawn carriage on bales of hay…
Pressing cider like days gone by…
Live music, good food, beer and wine garden…
“These are a few of [our] favorite things” about the Harvest Fair.
This annual event, taking place on September 22nd, has been a long-standing celebration of our local farming and community. Every year, the Harvest Fair draws thousands of visitors to the historic Johnson Farm. Events cater to young and old with family-friendly activities like cider pressing and an assortment of kid’s games.
Currents Online sat down with Heather Burger, executive director of Friends of the Farm. The sun was out, birds were chirping, and the raspberries were red, juicy, and ready to be plucked. In fact, we had quite few. In this idyllic setting, Heather shared some of her thoughts on this year’s Harvest Fair.
This is the 18th
Annual Harvest Fair – why have a Harvest Fair on the island?
A Harvest Fair originally started at Bay Hay Feed as a chili cook off. It was a time to bring the community together to celebrate local community farms. It became so popular that it outgrew the space. When Friends of the Farms had taken over managing Johnson Farms – the farmland for [residents of] the City of Bainbridge Island – it seemed like the perfect fit to get people on this beautiful piece of property that belongs to them. This event is a great way to get people out on the land, appreciate it, and have fun!
How long does it take you
to plan it each year?
Nine months! The Harvest Fair committee starts planning in January of every year. The event itself takes over 150 volunteers. It literally takes thousands of hours of volunteer time to prepare the farm, set everything up, run it, and take it down. Three thousand people attend – two thirds are local, and the rest come from the Peninsula and Seattle. And a lot of people bring out of town guests. Many have said: “I can’t believe you have this! We don’t have anything like this where we live.”
What are the ‘must have’
components? Something you can’t deviate
Things that are always there
are the cider pressing. Mercury Michael
and his real estate business have handled this for years. It’s so cool to watch the kids help. They’re fascinating by the process of picking
up the apples, putting them through the press, and getting to taste the cider
that they’ve made.
The sheep shearing is another
must. The adults love the live music all
day and the beer and wine garden. What
the kids really love the most is the land slide. It could not be the Harvest Fair without the
land slide. Where are you going to get
on a three-story slide and slide into bales of hay?
What’s the most popular
Everybody likes the food! For those with a competitive streak, there’s
the pie contest. Young and old can enter
– last year our grand prize winner was a high schooler! One of the most coveted
volunteer positions is pie contest judge.
What’s been the most
Watching the transformation
of the kids. So much of their lives now
are spent with their faces [stuck] in screen[s]. This is the antidote to screen time. The minute they come down that hill and see
all of that before them, they just start running. Literally.
Last year I heard one 6 or 7-year-old little girl turn back to her parents
and say, “Mom and Dad, you’re the coolest ever for bringing me here!” They spend all day outside. They’re learning without realizing they’re
What’s the most challenging?
together. It takes a tremendous amount
of time and energy, but it always works.
When I first took this job, I was told, “Oh, it just happens!” In a way,
it does “just happen” but it takes an awful lot of people to make sure it does
just happen. But it’s all done very
Is there anything
different this year?
We have a new contest this year – “most beautiful dahlia.” This will be in addition to “the largest zucchini” contest and the pie contest. New last year and coming back this year will be square dancing. We’ve also been expanding non-profit participation. There’ll be 12 non-profit booths – with hands-on fun activities for kids with some connection to food agriculture.
What do you want people to
I want people to connect with
a very special place that’s a fabulous gift to our community. Even if just for a minute, to think about [how]
they’re standing on farmland that was first cultivated in the 1880s and appreciate
what we’re preserving for the future.
What’s the most rewarding
thing for you personally?
Absolutely seeing the kids! Just watching the joy on their faces.
Come and enjoy the delicious local food, or “pack a picnic and enjoy the day on 15-acres of public farmland.” Tickets are $10 per person (entry includes all rides), children under two are free. Discounted $8 entrance for anyone arriving by bike. Sunday, September 22nd, 11am-5pm at Johnson Farm located at Fletcher Bay Road NE and NE Twin Ponds Road.