Last Updated on July 29, 2023
The farm-to-table movement has been growing for years and its popularity is only expected to increase. One reason is due to the interest in health and nutrition. Fresh, seasonal ingredients are more nutritious than processed foods and are often free from harmful chemicals and pesticides. Another is that people want to reduce their carbon footprint and support small-scale, sustainable agriculture. Finally, they want to know where their food comes from and how it’s grown.
According to Expedia, nine out of 10 people are looking for sustainable travel options such as farm-to-table weekends. One of the best places to find them is in the Yakima Valley, an area in Washington State southeast of Seattle and just north of the Oregon border.
Forty commercial crops and over 1,000 varieties of fruits and vegetables grow in the Yakima Valley. The area produces over 70 percent of the nation’s apples, 42 percent of the pears and 50 percent of Washington State’s wine grapes. It also provides most of the hops used in U.S. beer production.
Planning Your Visit
The first thing you’ll notice about the Yakima Valley is agriculture everywhere you look. Hop fields stretch as far as the eye can see. Orchards with apples, cherries, pears and apricots line both sides of the road.
Enjoy all the Yakima Valley offers by visiting its farmers’ markets, picking your own fresh vegetables and fruit, dining in farm-to-table restaurants and sampling craft beer, wine and cider made with locally sourced hops, grapes and apples.
Fruits and vegetables are harvested spring through fall, so the key is scheduling your trip between April and October and finding a time when the items you want to buy or pick are at their peak.
Farmers Markets and Farm Stands
Thousands of visitors come to the Yakima Valley to shop for locally grown produce at farmers’ markets and farm stands. You can find farmers’ markets in almost every town throughout the area, but locals say the best ones are in Yakima, Grandview and Prosser.
I strolled through the Downtown Yakima Farmers Market in summer of 2023 where countless vegetable vendors were selling lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and huge zucchini squash. Fruit vendors had bushels of ripe apples and huge boxes of luscious strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.
Check the schedule for the farmers’ markets you want to visit because they’re only open for a few hours once or twice a week and only during certain times of the year.
The Downtown Yakima Famers Market is open Sunday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm from May through October. Prosser Farmers Market runs on Saturdays from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm from May through October. The Sunnyside Farmers Market hours are 5:00 – 9:00 pm every Friday from mid-June through mid-August.
U-Pick Fruits and Vegetables
Some people don’t mind getting their hands dirty and prefer to pick their own fruits and vegetables. It’s an experience the entire family can enjoy. It’s also an excellent way to teach kids where their food comes from.
At Ahtanum Berry Patch & Bakery, I saw row after row of berries and families filling baskets and buckets with raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. The owner took us on a tour and we tasted these luscious treasures straight off the vine. I even tasted a gooseberry for the first time!
West Valley U-Pick offers visitors the opportunity to pick cherries, blueberries, pears, grapes, peaches and apples and even use their press to make unique ciders. Their vegetable garden contains tomatoes, eggplant and various types of peppers and tomatillos.
If you’re a cherry lover, a stop at Chukar Cherries is a must. The owners buy their fruits from small local farms and make jams, preserves and sauces. They coat dry cherries with European-style chocolate and create fruit and nut mixes by combining these dried cherries with almonds, pistachios and cashews. They use no additives or preservatives and recycle all bags and boxes.
Chukar provided us with samples, and my first question was, “Do you ship?”
Yes they do, and an order was soon en-route to my home in Arizona.
As you’d expect, a place where over 40 commercial crops are grown is chock full of farm-to-table restaurants.
Hop Town Wood-Fired Pizza serves hand-tossed wood-fired pies made with local ingredients. They even sprinkle them with hops. My group of friends shared an Italian Ploughboy Pizza made with Italian meats and locally-sourced vegetables.
The owners have developed custom ciders with Tieton Cider Works and named them after their sisters. “Frisky Seester,” a mixture of figs, hops and apples, is named after a sister who used to sneak away from home at night to make out with her boyfriend in the hops fields.
“Fiesty Seester,” a blackberry cider, is named for a sister who hated picking blackberries and would do anything to get out of it. There are four sisters in the family so more playfully-named ciders are yet to come. When they run out of “seesters,” they’ll start naming ciders after their sisters-in-law.
Cowiche Canyon Kitchen & Icehouse serves modern American cuisine with an international flair. Their dishes feature fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and livestock from local farms and they prepare all items in-house daily.
I enjoyed the Prawn and Avocado Salad consisting of grilled prawns, avocado, corn, queso fresco cheese, black beans, lettuce, jicama and cilantro, topped with tortilla strips and Mexican green goddess dressing.
My friend had the Vietnamese Bowl which included rice noodles, carrots, cucumber, Fresno chilies, bean sprouts, green onions, mint, cilantro, and crushed roasted peanuts topped with a Vietnamese dressing.
Nomad Kitchen and Mercantile is a contemporary café in Tieton, a small town near Yakima. The menu changes constantly because Chef Craig Singer works closely with local farmers to create a menu around items currently available and fresh. My friend and I shared the Fresh Peas and Radishes with Mascarpone and Pickled Mustard, Korean Style Pickled Beets and Red Pepper Hummus with Pita Chips. Their offerings include a variety of dishes made with fruits and vegetables and local meats and cheeses. Future plans include planting a fruit and vegetable garden onsite.
The quality and abundance of hops, grapes, apples and other fruits have transformed the Yakima Valley into one of the fastest-growing craft beverage destinations in the U.S. When you visit local breweries, wineries and cideries, it’s very possible that the hops, grapes and apples in samples you’re tasting were grown in a field you drove past.
There are over 80 wineries in the Yakima Valley and you’ll get a true farm-to-glass experience at all of them.
Large wineries like Owen Roe use grapes from their own vineyards and additionally source from local vineyards when necessary. Smaller wineries like Fortuity Cellars don’t have vineyards, but buy their grapes from local growers.
The Yakima Valley is recognized as the “Hops Capital of the World” by brewers worldwide because it supplies almost 80 percent of the hops used in the U.S. and 30 percent of the world’s supply. So, there’s no doubt that when you order a beer flight at local breweries like Varietal Beer Company or the Bron Yr Aur Brewery, the hops they used came from a hop grower like CLS Farms.
Yakima County leads the nation in apple production with over 55,000 acres of apple orchards yielding varieties such as Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith and Honeycrisp. As a result, cideries in the area have their pick of the finest apples in the country in their own backyard.
Tieton Cider Works is an artisan company thatoffers the consummate farm-to-glass experience because they manage the process from start to finish. Owners Craig and Sharon Campbell also own Harmony Orchards, an organic farm that’s been in Craig’s family for almost 100 years. So, they use their own apples to produce hard ciders like Apple, Bourbon Barrel Cherry, Blueberry and Lavender Honey.
We all know how important it is to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. So, why not have some fun doing it? Use these tips to plan your perfect farm-to-table weekend in the Yakima Valley and get ready for some great eating and drinking!