Living in the Mid-Columbia, it's often easy to trace the food on your table back to the field where it grew.
All you have to do is drive a few miles in any direction to see the wheat that becomes the flour that becomes the bread in the grocery store.
You can do the same with the fruit on your morning cereal, the tomatoes on your sandwich, the wine in your glass at dinner.
That's not so easy for people in Seattle.
"Agriculture is part of what separates us from other regions in the state," said Kris Watkins, president of the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau. "And we have large farms. It's not all quaint little mom-and-pop type farms."
And agritourism has become popular throughout the nation. If you've visited a pumpkin patch, bought produce from a grower at a farmers market or stayed at a bed and breakfast on a ranch, you're an agritourist.
But until now, no one has offered guided tours in the Mid-Columbia of our farmlands showing the link between farms and food.
Cathleen Williams of Kennewick and Debbie Toner of Richland are organizing a series of agricultural tours this summer called Field to Plate.
You will walk the fields with the farmers, see and feel the foods they grow and then sit down to a family-style meal to savor the flavors.
"We have so much diversity in the agriculture in our area -- orchards, dairies, wheat and corn fields. ... We're not like some areas where they only grow one or two crops," Williams said. "Over 145 different foods and food products are produced here in the Columbia Basin."
Yet, when Williams searched the internet for agritours, she couldn't find anyone doing farm tours west of the Mississippi River outside of various state agriculture departments and commodity groups.
Williams has been taking farmers and business people on agriculture tours for years.
"But it shouldn't stop there. What about everyone else? They eat, they should know where their food comes from," she said. "If they understand what it entails I think they'll be more likely to buy local."
Williams' passion for agriculture and food is in her blood. She grew up on a dryland farm in the Waitsburg-Dayton area, one that has been in her family since the late 1800s. She and her sister still farm, growing peas and soft white wheat.
She worked as a Washington State University Extension home economist for 10 years and has been catering events for decades.
She and Toner are also involving the talented chefs, wine makers and brewers in our area.
The first tour Aug. 13 will end at Schreiber Farms near Eltopia where more than 40 crops are grown for the fresh market. Chef Darren Dewalt of Veritas in Kennewick will use produce from the farm to create a gourmet meal served in the middle of the Schreiber's acreage.
The menu includes: prosciutto-wrapped melon, Spanish tortilla with heirloom tomato salsa, Moroccan-style chicken stew and grilled steak with fingerling potato salad. Each course will be paired with a wine from Claar Cellars from vineyards northwest of Pasco.
On Sept. 10 the tour will end at Middleton Orchards in Eltopia for a meal prepared by Chef Chris Van Hoorelbeke of the Crazy Moose Casino in Kennewick and wines from Barnard Griffin in Richland.
The Oct. 8 tour will end at Sunheaven Farms near Paterson for brews from Ice Harbor Brewery in Kennewick and a meal by Chef Frank Magana of Picazo 7 Seventeen of Kennewick.
Each Field to Plate tour leaves at 4 p.m. from TRAC and takes about four hours. Cost is $125 per person and reservations must be made five days before the tour date.
Williams and Toner have enlisted help on the tour from Fields of Grace, a nonprofit group that gleans fields for produce to give to area food banks. In return Fields of Grace will receive half of the net proceeds from each Field to Plate event.
For more information on the ag tours, call 947-1316 or email SpecialPro45@aol.com.