By Zachary Newman
“This is the fourth Harvest Fest we’ve played, and it’s always been cloudy!” Stephen Smitty, guitarist and vocalist of local favorites Camp Wisdom, told the crowd before his band launched into their set.
It was not a complaint. Even as the skies opened up and the rain came down, students, staff, parents, and others came together to dance, eat, learn, and celebrate at the 34th Annual Harvest Festival at Evergreen’s Organic Farm on Saturday, Oct. 18. It was clear that Olympia’s notoriously dreary weather could not hamper the festivities at one of Evergreen’s most celebrated traditions.
The festival, created in 1975, regularly draws out big numbers. Last year’s festival brought out 900 people to the farm, and a headcount halfway through this year put the attendance at approximately 600.
“This is an opportunity for students, staff, faculty as well as Olympia community members, to get together and celebrate the harvest, by learning about food preparation techniques and other sustainable living related activities,” said Allie Van Nostran. Van Nostran is the student organizations advisor for the community gardens. “We’ve had a lot of wonderful local music here today, and workshops and presentations from students, as well as community members that have done all this wonderful stuff—totally for free.”
Tucked away in the beautiful Evergreen woods, the organic farm has been a bastion of Evergreen’s community-oriented education.The five-acre farm is available to students to learn how to grow food and give the Evergreen community a more organic and natural source for food.
As well as a celebration, the Harvest Festival works as a great advertisement for the farm and the school itself. “This is my third day at Evergreen, and I used to go to this school, Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, and I’d be in class day-dreaming,” said Rebecca Lester. “When I came here, I realized this was an ideal place for me, so what I’ve seen so far is beautiful and precious and not to be taken for granted.” Lester is starting her career at Evergreen in March. “Harvest Fest adds to it,” she said, before taking a bite of the delicious pumpkin bisque offered.
Along with the organic farm, other cherished members of the Evergreen and Olympia communities joined the fun. The day was well soundtracked by local bands. Whiskey Business opened up the fest. Before Swoon started their set, banjoist and vocalist Yasi Lowy announced their approval of the apple cider offered. Camp Wisdom—then going by the moniker Meatwood Plaque, which earned hearty chuckles—played a kind of music not unlike the organic and rustic sounds of The Band. Promiscuous Sol and Heady Yeti also sounded great, adding to the autumnal feel of the day.
In between sets, the Evergreen Shellfish Club held oyster shucking competitions. The club is a non-commercial group, so they are not allowed to sell the shellfish they find. The oysters used were not from the Evergreen beach, but from Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton. Taylor Shellfish is not a stranger to the Evergreen community, as they have helped build Evergreen’s oyster garden. The contest was simple—the first person to successfully shuck five oysters and eat them is the winner, who then walks away with a pie cooked during the pie-making workshop. At least it sounded simple enough, as the demonstration showed, shucking is not so simple. After about a minute, however, the winner was announced, as he went home with a very nice pie and stomach full of oysters.
The workshops held offered a great look into different methods of sustainable living and eating. Workshops included classes on oyster frying, composting for beginners, squash breeding, sourdough bread making, and bacon making. The bacon making workshop was held by the Olympia Meat Collective, a unique part of the Olympia community. The collective works to teach citizens butchery, and to get closer to the meat that they eat. The collective also connects community butchers together, and purchases its own livestock. It’s a more ethical and respectable way of getting the pig meat, and eliminates the third party of a grocery store. Led by local butcher Brian Wilson, the workshop showed simple ways of cutting the meat, basic cures (2 parts salt to every 1 part sugar, but not too much salt!) and delicious recipes, all while glorious bacon cooked on a grill in the room, producing a mouth watering aroma. The most interesting recipe? Coffee bacon, which requires Turkish ground coffee be rubbed on to the meat and set aside for 10 days. Yum.
The 34th annual Harvest Festival was a beautiful way to spend a Saturday. With Halloween just around the corner, students and staff alike came out to enjoy the autumn fun. Families too came out to celebrate. With a moss painting station and pumpkin carving, children could join in, although maybe it wasn’t as perfect as they expected. As a mother asked her two sons what their favorite parts were, their answers were surprisingly immediate.
“It would be if you finished up already!”