Focusing on farming: Onalaska Apple Harvest Festival returns the first weekend in October


Lewis County has no shortage of festivals and celebrations. 

From Winlock Egg Day and Toledo Cheese Days festivals to the Napavine Funtime Festival, the Morton Loggers’ Jubilee and Mossyrock Blueberry Festival — just to name a few — all are now in the rearview mirror this year and the last of the major county festivals is upon us.

It’s the Onalaska Apple Harvest Festival. 

Members of the nonprofit organization the Onalaska Alliance are preparing the final touches for the 14th annual Apple Harvest Festival, scheduled for Oct. 5 through Oct. 8. 

The Chronicle sat down with Onalaska Alliance Vice Chairperson Cathy Murphy along with Onalaska resident and farmer Harry Bhagwandin on Thursday to preview the festival. 

While the festival features a plethora of events and activities over the four-day period, including an apple pie eating contest, a 5K, a parade and more, the main focus of this year’s festival is the farm and homestead tour on the festival’s final day. This year’s tour features five local farms. 

Bhagwandin said the tour’s purpose is to showcase the opportunities in the Onalaska area for rural development and agriculture. 

“(Agriculture) is our historical first economy in Lewis County, going back to the Hudson Bay Farm in Toledo,” Bhagwandin said, later adding, “and we’re losing it, as is the country, to big corporate farming. Small farming is still something we value in Lewis County.” 

The main problem with small farms in Lewis County right now is that many farmers are retiring and their children are leaving to pursue other careers instead of taking over the operations, he said.

And while Bhagwandin has seen some younger people try to start farming in the area, many are inexperienced and don’t last long. 

Because of this, the goal of this year’s farm and homestead tour is to not only showcase local farms and products, but to educate attendees on sustainable farming practices and building a farming community network. 

“Anything we can do to show examples of how people survive in Lewis County with agriculture, or whatever their homestead business venture is, because I’m a big advocate for, ‘we should be able to make money off our property,’” Bhagwandin said. 

Murphy said there are many young people who purchase land in the area wanting to live out in a rural community but don’t know where to start when it comes to utilizing the land they’ve purchased. 

“We also want to inspire, not only the small-farm entrepreneur, but to showcase to someone who wants to move here what they can do with their land,” Murphy said. 

“I remember when I was that age, just moving to Lewis County, getting a piece of property with the romantic idea that I was gonna grow my own food, but it’s harder than you think,” Bhagwandin added. 

Despite the struggles, he got to know other farmers in the area and learned from them, overcoming challenges and establishing a farm providing supplemental income. That’s why they hope to grow the local farming community through the tour. 

“We really believe that to survive, we’ve got to build the community,” Bhagwandin said. 

“Building partnerships for a sustainable community, that’s how we accomplish our mission,” Murphy added. 

While tour attendees can purchase vegetables and fruit, including apples, of course, from the farms on the tour, other items will be for sale, including freshly baked pies, fresh-squeezed ciders, and butchered and cleaned rabbit, chicken and pork meat, depending on the farm. 

Murphy recommended bringing a cooler for those who plan on shopping. Many of the farms on the tour will have vendors on site as well.

For those interested in the Onalaska Apple Harvest Festival’s farm and homestead tour, it is self-guided and will be going from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8. 

Those attending are asked to leave their pets at home out of respect for the farm owners. 

The five farms on the tour include: 

• Hayseed Acres, located at 1979 state Route 508 in Onalaska and owned by Jerry McFarland, who raises meat rabbits and chickens, selling the meat and eggs to farm customers and local grocery stores. 

• LaCamas Creek Farm, located at 122 Campbell Road in Onalaska and owned by Laura Sweany and Joe Royce, who practice permaculture design on their farm, which includes a food forest, perennial herbs, an orchard and plenty of farm animals.

• Shady Grove Orchards, located at 183 Shady Grove Road in Onalaska and owned by Harry and Annie Bhagwandin, who practice sustainable forestry along with having organic orchards, gardens and a greenhouse with nursery stock for sale and woodland trails to explore. 

• Till Next Time Farms, located at 717 Schoen Road in Silver Creek and owned by Devin Gustafson, Ashleigh Perelli-Minetti and Grant and Sarah Bartlett, who ethically raise chickens and run a high efficiency market-garden farm using restorative agriculture practices to produce healthy vegetables. 

• 3 Dog Cider and Brewstillery, located at 1402 state Route 122 in Silver Creek and owned by Joshua Hail, who participates in the Lost Apple Project to grow long-forgotten apple varieties and presses and ferments fresh ciders on site.  


The full event schedule for the 14th annual Onalaska Apple Harvest Festival is as follows: 

Thursday, Oct. 5

• Bingo and bake sale, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Onalaska Elementary School gym, located at 540 Carlisle Ave. in Onalaska.


Friday, Oct. 6

• Plentiful Harvest Art quilt show, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Community Presbyterian Church, located at 288 Carlisle Ave. in Onalaska. 

• Apple Harvest Festival Royal Court coronation, 6 p.m. at the Onalaska Elementary School gym, located at 540 Carlisle Ave. in Onalaska.


Saturday, Oct. 7

• Pancake breakfast, 7 to 10 a.m. at the Community Presbyterian Church, located at 288 Carlisle Ave. in Onalaska. 

• Apple cider pressing, 8 a.m. to noon at the Community Youth Center, located at 231 Central Ave. in Onalaska. 

• Apple Harvest Festival vendors, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring more than 70 vendors up and down Carlisle Avenue. Vendor booths are still available and free to educational or nonprofit organizations and start at $15 for all other vendors. For more information or to apply for a booth, visit and complete the online form or print out and mail an application.  

• 5K Apple Fun Run, 9 a.m., starting at the Carlisle Lake Park Smokestack at the north end of Alexander Road in Onalaska. Registration for the run begins at 7:30 a.m.

• Apple pie contest, 9:30 a.m. on the stage at the intersection of Fourth Street and Carlisle Avenue. Those entering are asked to bring two pies along with a completed entry form which can be found online at Following judging, the pie auction will begin at 12:50 p.m.

• Plentiful Harvest Art quilt show, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Community Presbyterian Church, located at 288 Carlisle Ave. in Onalaska. 

• Beer and cider garden, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the northwest corner of Second Street and Carlisle Avenue in Onalaska. 

• Apple Harvest Festival parade, 11:30 a.m. starting at the Onalaska High School located at 560 Carlisle Ave. and going south before turning west on Second Street in Onalaska. Sign-in and staging for the parade begins at 9 a.m.

• Aquaculture and kid’s trout fishing, noon to 3 p.m. at the red building near the Onalaska High School bus garage located at 560 Carlisle Ave., for kids 14 and under. 

• Lewis County Fire District 1 open house, noon to 4 p.m. at the district’s fire house located at 1733 state Route 508 in Onalaska, featuring tours of the fire house, CPR demonstrations, vehicles on display and kid-friendly activities including spraying hoses and a smokehouse. 

• Live music, noon to 4 p.m. on the stage at the intersection of Fourth Street and Carlisle Avenue featuring performances by Guava Jam, Mountain Highway Band with Brian Green, the Llewellyn Family Band and, finally, Rebellion. 

• Cornhole tournament, 1 p.m. at the Community Youth Center, located at 231 Central Ave. in Onalaska. A $40 entry fee will be charged for teams of players each who will compete for a cash grand prize. Tournament check-in begins at noon. 

• Apple pie eating contest, 3 p.m. on the stage at the intersection of Fourth Street and Carlisle Avenue, entry is $2. 


Sunday, Oct. 8

• Farm and homestead tour, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the farm locations.

• Farm-to-table dinner, 5 to 8 p.m. at The Mason Jar, located at 673 Leonard Road in Onalaska, featuring cuisine cooked by Chef Jeremy Wildhaber. To attend, purchase a pre-sale ticket at while still available. 

All events are free to attend unless otherwise stated. Proceeds from the 14th Apple Harvest Festival benefit the Onalaska Alliance, which aims to grow Onalaska’s economic and educational opportunities while preserving the area’s rural lifestyle. 

Aside from the festival, the Alliance organizes an annual Easter egg hunt and auction along with operating, maintaining and paying taxes on Carlisle Lake Park — which the nonprofit actually owns — where they also host summer concerts. 

For more information, visit