Tieton WA: Traveling to or even staying to live

When I first visited Tieton, WA to report on the town’s farm (Tieton Farm and Creamery), I felt like I was in a rerun of the Andy Griffith show. I recall watching episodes of women reporters coming to the small town of Mayberry, and like those the journalists in those reruns, it didn’t take more than a few hours for me to know many of the people in town on a first-name basis.

Once surrounded by conventional apple and other orchards in the desert hills not too far from evergreen Washington State mountains -- long ago it would have been a town I would have avoided because of the heavy toxic spraying that goes on in any conventional orchard. But in sitting in the town cafe for breakfast, I struck up a conversation with a young orchardist and his fiance. He had taken over his father’s wholesale orchard business, and he was now operating with sustainable and organic methods. Our discussion led me to discover that his was not the only orchard going sustainable.

There are others converting, and some as you’ll see in the video on this page, have been operating sustainably for many years.

I walked the streets and town square, stepped into a variety of businesses -- one was a hand-book bindery where two local women had been hired to do the delicate work of making handbound books -- a business once not there before the discovery of Tieton by the Seattleite (see below). My cell phone stopped working so I stopped into the town hall and got to know the folks there, who were of great help.

There are still farming structures around town as you see in this photo to your left. I went into the miniscule library where the librarian printed out a map to the nearby farm for me, and where about five young children were enjoying picture books sitting around a table.

Though tiny and at one time forgotten, the small hamlet of Tieton, Washington has been discovered by Ed Marcquand, a Seattle business owner and artist who was riding through on a bicycling trip in the rural and wild hills of Washington State when he discovered something very unique about Tieton, WA.

The town once bustled as an orchard town with lively work and festivals, drawing in hispanic workers and keeping Washington’s apple industry abuzz. But as conventional apple orcharding’s business changed, so did this town, and it fell into depression.

But when Ed saw the tiny town, he saw the green town square surrounded picturesquely by old-time storefront buildings. He noticed its peaceful location and desert climate in proximity to very popular outdoor sporting locations for hiking, rafting, bicycling, fishing, etc. in the nearby mountains. He thought this could be a great production place for established artists. Not so much just an artists’ retreat -- though it can serve that as well -- but also a place where the locals who needed work could be hired for handcrafts and arts, and the old storage buildings that needed to be purchased and used again could store artists’ work -- all for a far better cost than what one would pay back in the big rainy city of Seattle.

To the left is a photo of the edge of the town square in Tieton. Today, many artistic events take place in Tieton, WA, and an ever growing crowd comes to town to enjoy the feel of a tiny hamlet that’s both Mayberry RFD and progressive. Some stay for the events and bring their bikes for riding before or afterwards. Others pass through to consider the purchase of a low cost older home to turn into a B&B for the growing number of art and outdoor recreation lovers discovering the area. Or, some even considering it as a unique place to retire while the tiny town’s potential is somewhat still in its adolescence.

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