WALLA WALLA — A self-guided agri-tourism promotion helps visitors eat their way from the state capitol to now the “Capital of Washington Wine (and Food) Country.”
At least that’s how state Department of Agriculture officials refer to Walla Walla, the latest community to be featured as part of the state’s Savor Washington campaign.
Walla Walla, home of the state’s official vegetable — the Walla Walla Sweet Onion — and a renowned food and wine region, is the 15th and latest community to be included in the roughly three-year campaign, according to an announcement from the department.
Savor Washington features itineraries with websites and contact information for culinary destinations across the state. The tours were initially developed in 2010 by the department’s Small Farms and Direct Marketing program in conjunction with Washington State Tourism.
The campaign was funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. Although funding was eliminated for state tourism in 2011 and reduced for the marketing program, the itineraries are still posted on the state Department of Agriculture’s website.
David Woolson, Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce president, said landing the listing is part of the Chamber’s “Plow 2 Plate” initiative to help strengthen the local economy through existing growth opportunities, including in culinary tourism.
Woolson said he became aware of the Savor campaign and saw that Walla Walla hadn’t been on it. With help from Tourism Walla Walla, he rallied state agriculture officials to include the community, which was chosen earlier this year for the second consecutive year as one of Rand McNally’s top five best small towns for food.
“The Savor Washington project is a great way to showcase the area for folks looking for a trip that combines tourism with the exceptional products and experiences of our rich agricultural community,” Woolson said in a prepared statement.
The seven-page itinerary for the Walla Walla Valley offers nine highlights: Walla Walla farmers’ markets; more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms; voted one of the best small towns for food; home of the Walla Walla Sweet Onion; craft breweries; an old-world butcher shop with locally sourced, sustainably raised meat; traditional cheese-making courses; panoramic vistas; and a thriving historic downtown.
It also features businesses and farms with a focus on local ingredients. Among those listed are Maple Counter Café, Woodward Canyon and its Reserve House restaurant, Monteillet Fromagerie, Klicker’s, Whitehouse-Crawford, Taruscio Farms, Walla Walla Bread Co., Bacon & Eggs and more.
Major annual events and festivals, plus tips for visiting farms and bringing produce home from an index of local growers and purveyors are listed.
Woolson said the itinerary will remain linked through the Chamber’s website and will be promoted and publicized to help build agri-tourism.
“It’s a great partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Tourism Walla Walla to shine a light on the great food scene here.”