Six baby cows from Whidbey Island will be the stars of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Mount Vernon.
Whidbey Farm and Market is partnering with first-time festival participant Tulip Valley Farms to provide an interactive experience with the three-week old calves during the beloved mainland event.
The six calves — just a few of many born at Whidbey Farm and Market this season — will reside at Tulip Valley Farms during the month of April. Festival-goers can buy tickets to bottle feed and cuddle with the young cows, who were born at the beginning of March.
After the festival, they will return home to Whidbey Island, where they will live as pet cows, according to Whidbey Farm and Market owner Shannon Hamilton.
This collaboration came to be when Hamilton met Andrew Miller, the founder and farmer of Tulip Valley Farms, in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Hamilton and Miller were both on their way to a conference put on by the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association, an international agritourism organization.
Miller said that at the conference, one of the sessions he attended centered on facilitating interactions between the public and farm animals — cow cuddling specifically was brought up. Miller remembered that Hamilton had cows on her farm, and the idea for the partnership sprung to life in his head.
Miller said that in the nearly 40 years since the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival was inaugurated, local farmers’ approach to agriculture has changed; therefore, he said, the way farmers create agritourism experiences for the public should change accordingly.
Introducing cow cuddling is just one way Miller wants to expand upon the beloved tulip festival during his first year as a participant. He will also sell “night bloom” tickets, lighting up the fields and allowing guests to visit his farm after daylight hours.
“We want Skagit Valley to be the Coachella of spring,” he said.
Hamilton said that she feels it’s important to allow the public to interface with farm animals as a means of both educating about agriculture and spreading joy.
“Not everybody owns a farm,” she said. “Not everybody gets to interact with animals.”
Tickets to Tulip Valley Farms are available online at tulipvalley.com. The festival begins Saturday, April 1, and lasts for the duration of the month.