Tillamook County offers dahlias, dairy products, and delicious oysters
Tillamook County is often called the “Land of Cheese, Trees, and Ocean Breeze!” But that common saying may need to change, the truth is that Tillamook County offers many opportunities to see diverse agritourism in action! For example, visitors to Wilsonview Dairy can learn where their food comes from and meet the people providing a healthy product.
Dairy farmer Desi Josey recently said they were encouraging tours of the family farm.
“I think it’s very important that we reach all the people who buy our product,” Josie said. “They learn that it’s hard work that happens 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We invite people to come and share our lives with us.”
Then there’s Nevor Shellfish Farm on Netarts Bay which is home to Oregon’s only native Oysters, called Olympia. Once thought to be extinct, the native dollar-sized silvery clams are making a comeback. You can visit, sample and learn more.
Then family-owned Josie Farms produces the state’s largest crop of delicious fresh artichokes that are ripe and ready now on a farm off the Wilson River Loop Road. You can visit at any time!
Speaking of farm stands, when it’s time to wander south of Tillamook, the fields of dahlias and barn-sized stands along the Oregon coast may catch your eye and then capture your heart.
Traffic is moving at a breakneck speed on Coastal Highway 101, seven miles south of Tillamook. Slow down, wander and look at the magnificent Old House Dahlias where bursts of color are in bloom right now.
Owner Mark Harvey, also known as Dahlia Mann, Often He can be found in his fields, cutting flowers or weeding the rows between his precious flowers. The farm’s rich loam soil combined with abundant morning moisture provides a colorful crop on the 14 acres each summer and fall, Harvey said.
“A few years ago, maybe twenty or so, I bought some dahlias to make some extra money,” Harvey said. At the time, I was growing them in my backyard in Southeast Portland, but I was making only $5 a day. Well, I soon realized that wasn’t going to do the trick, so I started growing dahlia tubers to sell. I bought a cooler and started leasing more and more land here in Tillamook County. I have continued to follow it and grow it.
Now, it’s dahlias as far as the eye can see across the Dahlia Man’s property, where close-up views of his dahlia trees are doubled. They sport names like Sizzle, BJ’s Rival, Bryan Ray, Xmas Star, and Mengum Singles.
The list is constantly growing, now boasting over 200 varieties strong, across the fertile farm fields of Old House Dahlias.
“I love the fact that I can grow such beautiful flowers,” Harvey said. “It’s the marine layer loaded with moisture and it’s cooler up here, so I get better quality, colorful flowers that don’t fade.”
Harvey grows dahlias for grocery store markets in Portland, but you can stop by and pick up a bunch and drop the dough in an antique mailbox where the honor system works well.
Nearby is the Old Dahlia House display: a painting of Mark’s old house on a barn-sized mural amid an abundance of dahlias, plus a “Where’s Waldo”-type moment. You see, you should be looking hard for the Dahlia Man in the massive, barn-sized painting that local artist Helen Hale painted for Harvey. If you look carefully, you’ll find him, among all other things, holding a flashlight in his hand.
“Well,” he explained, “we have elk here!” Sometimes, up to 30 in a herd. They come at night, so I have to be out at 2:30 a.m. most summer nights to make sure they don’t eat my flowers. “Elk love dahlias – to eat them.”
The fields, dahlias, huge painting and coastal atmosphere add up to a wonderful amount of magical whimsy that is well worth your time visiting.
Harvey adds that the season is just getting into its stride: “That’s the great thing about dahlias; they’re gorgeous.” They don’t really stop and will grow all through October, and if we don’t see frost, they will grow well into November. In fact, your Thanksgiving dining room table can offer a dahlia centerpiece. That’s what makes them so adorable!
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