Acclaimed Willows Inn has a farm dedicated to its kitchen

By Brooke Strickland

for BBJ

At The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, they strive for luxury at its finest, both in dining and overnight accommodations. The business is owned by Blaine Wetzel, who serves as the head chef, and Tim McEvoy. For more than 100 years, it has been a destination on the island.

For the past nine years, Blaine has worked with his team to offer guests an immersive experience on the island, focusing on hospitality and a comfortable atmosphere. Blaine was designated by Food and Wine magazine as Best New Chef in 2012,and in 2014 the James Beard Foundation named him Rising Star Chef of the Year. The following year, he was named BestChef Northwest, and in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the restaurant at The Willows Inn has been named by Opinionated AboutDining as the top restaurant in North America.

The Willows Inn has a seasonal staff that fluctuates from 30 to 45 people, and over the past several years the staff has increased to accommodate more guests who are learning about the destination.

Said Reid Johnson, general manager for The Willows Inn: “The community has responded well to us out here for the past several years. People are happy there is a place for jobs on the island and that the Willows has been able to remain open through so many changes over the past 100 years. We do our best to support the community — not only on the island but around Whatcom County. We have a very strong focus on sourcing from local farmers and fishers for everything we offer.”

The company partners with Loganita Farm, which is owned by a local family that created the farm specifically for TheWillows Inn. “The farm grows for the Inn exclusively, and the farm manager, Mary Von Krusenstiern, works very closely with our chef team,” said Johnson. “Together each year they plan out everything, from where to source seeds to timing of planting and harvest. Our farm team is critical to what we do here, and they do a fantastic job.”

The farm has 30 permanent raised beds, four hoop houses and an in-ground garden plot. Flowers and herbs are interplanted to promote biodiversity while combating disease and attracting insects that benefit the plants and soil.

Once the crops are harvested, they are hand-picked and delivered directly to the kitchen.

As far as the future goes for The Willows Inn, Johnson believes that they will continue to make their mark and leave a legacy on Lummi Island and beyond.

To do this, they plan on hosting other talented chefs for events in the hopes that it will continue to attract people to the area. “Each year, we get better at making sure our guests have the best time possible and that will continue to be our focus both short term and long term,” he said. “Our one long-term goal is to continue growing the legacy of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, where we have the best ingredients and provide an unmatched level of hospitality.”

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