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Bees, yurts, llamas, solar power

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LEAVENWORTH — A self-guided tour of local homes and businesses that “embrace sustainability” will be held this month in the Leavenworth area.

The Sustainable Living & Farming Tour, set for Sept. 13 and 14, will feature 14 destinations that include straw bale houses and yurts, off-the-grid buildings, organic farms and gardens, alpaca and llama farming, bee and chicken raising and more.

These visits are hands-on with no scripts,” said organizer Dave Bartholomew. “These are local residents who are willing to share their skills, insights and experiences on sustainable living and businesses.”

The two-day event is sponsored by a partnership of Simply Living Farm, a research and retail company, the Wenatchee River Institute and the Leavenworth Community Farmers Market. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the event.

Bartholomew, who owns Simply Living Farm in Leavenworth, said he’d often been frustrated in the past by hearing people talk about sustainable living but never doing anything about it.

We started looking around the Leavenworth area and discovered many residents are living the sustainable life,” he said. He mentioned one young farmer who has a “closed loop” commercial organic operation, from fertilizer to plants to seeds. A couple’s solar set-up allows them to sell excess electricity to the Chelan County PUD. One woman with an alpaca and llama farm spins wool into finished products that she sells.

All this made us very excited,” said Bartholomew. “We said, ‘we’ve got to share this!’ So the farming tour was born.”

A pre-tour lecture by Ellen Gray, executive director of the Washington Sustainable Food/Farming Network, will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Barn Beach Reserve, 347 Division St., Leavenworth. Her topic: “Sustainable Food Systems: What’s Happening in Washington?” Cost is $3 for members of the Wenatchee River Institute and $5 for nonmembers.

On Sept. 13, tour day kicks off with a keynote address by Gray at 9:15 a.m. at the Barn Beach Reserve. Her topic: “How You Can Make A Difference: Advocacy Opportunities for a more Sustainable Food System.” Tour sites will be open after her talk (around 10 a.m.) until 4 p.m., and then again from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 14.

For more info or to register, visit

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business. follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.