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.
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.
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.
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.