Ross and Venise Cunningham in front of their first garlic crop in 2013, when the first Goats and Garlic festival was held. Photo courtesy Laura Morceau

Garlic and Goats festival returns to Buckley

The fourth annual Garlic and Goats Festival at Simple Goodness Farm in Buckley is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 12.

The festival’s intent is to promote small, local farms by highlighting different varieties of garlic, letting people interact with farm animals and giving people access to a local working farm for the day, according to the event’s hosts and owners of Simple Goodness Farm Ross and Venise Cunningham, at 28006 124th street east in Buckley.

“When we bought the old dairy farm in 2013, we were brand new to farming,” said Venise Cunningham, who is one part of the husband-and-wife team. “We had been raising goats for two years, but had never had our own garden before. So we decided to grow one crop that we could learn to grow really well; after a lot of research we decided on garlic.”

In the U.S., most people are used to buying what is known as softneck garlic, because this garlic can be stored the longest and is easiest to grow in places like California, where the most garlic is grown.

But the Cunninghams, until recently, grew hardneck garlic, which they say is easier to grow in the Pacific Northwest and is considered a specialty item that commands higher prices and has way less competition.

“In terms of cooking, all garlic cooks the same but garlic is similar to grapes in the fact that each variety has a slightly different flavor profile that is different raw versus cooked,” Cunningham said. “As a general rule of thumb, though, hardneck is generally much stronger in flavor and people notice a huge difference between the garlic they get at the sale versus what they can buy at the store.”

The Cunninghams have reported success ever since they started selling their garlic.

The first year they opened their produce for sale, the Cunninghams placed a rustic, handmade sandwich-board sign on Highway 410 to advertise their farm fresh garlic.

With no other marketing, they sold out of their entire crop of heirloom garlic, weighing over 275 pounds, in just two weekends.

The next year they upped their ante to 300 pounds and still sold out after just one weekend, due to many repeat customers and a beautiful Pacific Northwest day that called people to the mountain and right past that same old sign.

“I get really excited talking to other farmers about what a great crop garlic is for small Pacific Northwest farms,” said Cunningham. “Garlic is a winter crop so you plant it in the fall, cover it with some mulch and then forget about it until spring. We get rainfall at exactly the right time so small farms without water rights can still grow garlic really well in our climate.”

While this all started with their own home-grown garlic, the Cunninghams are no longer able to keep up with the demand on their small farm and needed to rotate to a new crop to maintain their soil fertility. But with demand still so high, they’ve invited other local farmers to come sell their garlic together at Simple Goodness Farm. “As people gathered, they excitedly talked about all things garlic and the idea of a garlic festival was born,” said Cunningham.

The festival will feature 10 different kinds of garlic this year: Spanish Roja, Musik, California White, Chesnok Red, Thurston, Coville, German Red Hardneck, Inchelium Red, Silver Rose, and Italian Late.

Additionally, there will be other vegetable and flower farmers at the festival, alongside a woodworker, an artist who sells homemade cards, a hotdog stand, a natural cleaning product stand and Enumclaw’s Happy Camper Cocktail Company, which will be selling root beer floats as a fundraiser for Hunter Coffman, a Black Diamond child who was recently re-diagnosed with brain cancer.

There will also be a kid-friendly herd of miniature goats to sit with and cuddle.

Even though the festival continues to grow, Cunningham has even bigger dreams in store for it.

“I would love to see the Enumclaw plateau become a smaller version of Gilroy, California where lots of farms grow garlic and people travel from all over to come enjoy the quirkiness that is garlic,” Cunningham said. “Our customers are often shocked by how many different varieties of garlic there are and how different each one tastes. Most people have only ever tasted the one kind of garlic they can buy in the grocery store. I want to change that.”

The cost of admittance to the festival is $1 and children under the age of 5 are free.

 

The Cunninghams raise a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf miniature dairy goats each year. Photo courtesy of Deb Hodges