On the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington lies the Chimacum Valley, a pastoral area with a rich agricultural past and a forward thinking group of farmers and food entrepreneurs. While Jefferson County’s plays a small part in Washington State’s overall agricultural economy - the county is mostly forest as opposed to farmland - the farmers that are here are playing a huge role in setting a standard for responsible agriculture. This has become a hub of farmer’s markets, farmstands, and local products from cider to cheese.
It’s here, in the town of Chimacum, that you’ll find Finnriver, a B-Corp certified farm and cidery, committed to sustainable practices towards the earth and community. There’s only one stop sign in town, (a prime location for Chimacum Corner Farmstand, whose motto is “food from here”) and just a stone’s throw away is the award-winning cidery.
Founded in 2008, the team at Finnriver strives to “serve the land with cider,” and is an excellent example of how a responsible business can make a difference in the community. On the 80-acres of their organic farm, Finnriver keeps the local agricultural tradition alive, growing over 5,500 trees, with 20 varieties of heirloom and traditional cider apple varieties.
My first trip to Finnriver was by bicycle, on a sunny, early autumn trip up to Port Townsend. It was an idyllic setting, parking our bicycles on the custom parking structure made from old bike frames in the front lot and entering the charming world of fermented goods. The outdoor seating area next to the tasting room looked out over farmland, a reminder of the roots of what’s in the glass.
It was clear that the team at Finnriver wasn’t just making cider, but they were also building community. “Cider emerged from the apples in the old orchard out back and became a wonderful way to invite people to the farm, raise a glass in celebration of the earth’s fruits, and create a space for gathering with neighbors and friends and visitors from far and near,” says Crystie Kisler, co-owner of Finnriver.
I recently went up on a less idyllic day, one of those early spring moments when the rain feels never ending. Typical Pacific Northwest stuff. But Finnriver was a much needed respite from the dreary gray, the chance to huddle under a heat lamp and taste a round of cider. Turns out, cider is one of those things that’s as good on a hot summer day as it is on a blustery afternoon.
Over the winter weekends this year, Finnriver has played host to a few different local food vendors: crepes from La Crepe de Quimper on Friday evenings and Sundays, and local bratwurst plates on Saturdays (complete with vegetarian options), featuring local organic cider-braised cabbage, kraut, potatoes, and even a homemade cider mustard. That’s not only a delicious lunch option, it plays into Finnriver’s overall mission.
“We are excited to grow and gather all of the local ingredients we can to highlight the abundance of this landscape and also to support localization of our food system,” says Kisler. “We are developing more and more connections with local homesteads and local apple gatherers who are revealing the amazing quantity of fruit growing in our area.”
One of the unique connections that they have with the local community is through their Farmstead cider, made with unwanted or extra apples brought in by neighbors. The resulting community blend is sold and ten cents from every bottle is donated to local food banks. “It’s a rustic cider that celebrates community spirit,” says Kisler.
That community spirit is what you feel the second that you walk in, and what’s in your glass. Cider never tasted so good.
If you go:
I brought my growler along in the hopes of filling it up for the beautiful day that was projected for 24-hours later, but learned that growler pours weren’t an option. Don’t let that stop you; just buy a few bottles for later. You can, however, fill up a growler at MiiR Flagship, Seattle, WA! Summer promises more food and music series at Finnriver as well; it’s very worth a visit, by car, bicycle or otherwise.