My husband and I recently moved from Maine, a land of trees, snow, and rocky soil, to Walla Walla, with its wide open spaces, dry heat, and lushly growing farmlands. When I move to a new place, I love to learn all I can about a place when I move there, really dig deep into its story, and find out what makes the community so special. That’s why Blue Mountain Land Trust’s Learning on the Land series is so exciting to me, because it does just that.

Learning on the Land is an event series that fulfills the land trust’s goal of conservation education. This series of workshops, lectures, field trips, and hikes provides a unique perspective on the Blue Mountain region and the Walla Walla Valley –it’s so much more than just good wine.

There’s something new to learn for everyone –whether you’re like me and new to the area, or just visiting. Even if you’ve lived here your whole life, have you ever been to an organic sweet onion farm, watched a meteor shower from a field, or understood what exactly goes on with Mill Creek? Well, this year you can!

Learning on the Land is held from April to October, and this year’s lineup is comprised of 25 events. Participants will learn from local farmers, explore with geologists, biologists and other experts in their field, get creative in painting and photography workshops, get their culture on at local museums, view a meteor shower, and much more.

The 2016 Learning on the Land season kicked off with the land trust’s second annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival in April. May started off with a lecture by local naturalist Mike Denny, and Whitman geologist and environmental studies professor emeritus, Bob Carson called Flora, Fauna, and Floods. If you missed these two entertaining speakers, this was just a preview of the adventures they will lead later in the season, so you’ll be able to catch them again.

On Saturday, May 7, Mike Denny, author of  the “Writing on the Wild Side” blog will lead a hike up the western face of the Blue Mountains through Tiger Canyon to explore the plant, animal, and insect species found in the area, with a special focus on butterflies, in Tiger Canyon Safari. Later in September, Bob will lead the Missoula Floods Tour, a hike through the Wallula Gap area that will explore the results of the famed ancient floods.

Art & Nature

Botanical drawingIf hiking isn’t quite your thing, Learning on the Land hosts several events where you can explore your creative side while getting in touch with nature. You may have seen Jean Ann Mitchell’s beautiful watercolors in gift shops around Walla Walla. Join her on May 14 for Watercolor Wonders, where participants can try their own hands at botanical painting, and learn about native wildflower species. There will also be Nature Painting with Joyce Anderson in September, which I hear is always a popular class.

If you enjoy photography, or if you just love to get out and see some beautiful sights, join any of the three photography workshops. In Through the Lens I: Curves, Shadows, and Textures, on May 28, participants will be guided on a photography field trip in the morning light, exploring the Skyrocket Hills near Prescott, a geographically unique area. Then explore the way the evening light plays on the valley, in Through the Lens II, on July 30. In October, Through the Lens III will be held on the grounds of a local winery. These workshops are an amazing opportunity to work with accomplished photographers and teachers in an intimate setting. Spaces will fill up fast; I’ve already signed up.

Mission Day on June 16 will be a culture-packed field trip to Mission, Oregon, where participants will visit the Tribal Native Plant Nursery, Crow’s Shadow Art Institute, and Tamastkalit Museum, with lunch at Sundowner in Pendleton.

Discover Local Farms

Do you love Walla Walla Sweet Onions? May 27 is your chance to visit an organic sweet onion fam to learn everything you always wanted to know about Walla Walla’s most famous crop. From there, the Sweet Organics event will head to Welcome Table Farm to learn about organic farming practices, and meet their draft horses.

The secret life of beesOn May 21, explore The Secret Life of Bees with Paul Tompkins. This was a popular event last year, where participants learned about the alkali bee. This year, learn all about the honeybee and beekeeping. That’s just a few of the agricultural events planned for this season.

Super Trees, Super Fire

All Learning on the Land events are great for families, but especially Super Trees, on June 22, a playful tree walk for children starting at the Walla Walla Public Library downtown and exploring Walla Walla’s record-setting giant trees on Whitman College’s beautiful campus. This was a big hit last year with children and adults alike. In September Bob Berger will lead a similar tree walk, Giants of Walla Walla.

Last summer was one filled with fire for the state of Washington. Walla Walla saw its own

Blue Creek Fire6,000-acre wildfire near Blue Creek. Join Carrie Spradlin, silviculturist for the Umtailla National Forest Service on July 9 to examine the effects of the Blue Creek Fire one year later.

These are just the Learning on the Land events I’m most interested in. There’s still lots more.

Tickets are $10 for adults. Children 18 and under are free. All events are welcome to children, except the Woodward Canyon Winery tour. Click here for event details, and to purchase tickets. Some events have limited space, so sign up soon to hold your spot!

Full disclosure, I am contracted as a grant writing consultant for Blue Mountain Land Trust, but as a community member, I’m still really excited about these events. I’ve never seen an educational series quite like this one. Learning on the Land is certainly a treasure for the entire Walla Walla Valley.