Press Release

For Immediate Use: August 20, 2020

Contact: Janet Dodson, Eastern Oregon Visitors Association: janetd@eoni.com or 541.786.8006

Discovering Eastern Oregon’s Farm Stands & Food Trails

LA GRANDE, OREGON__While seeking sources for locally grown food and fiber may have been a longtime habit for some, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to pause and think about how their food is grown, how it gets from the farm to their plate, and how many hands it passes through making the journey.

Good news! Many farmers have been refining their methods of making their products directly available to consumers and they are ready to serve an increasing number of customers wanting what they produce. Some farmers have also created ways to share some of their rural lifestyle with people who want a little time down on the farm.

This match-up between seekers and providers has led to the creation of more farm stands, food trails, farm visits and tours throughout the country than ever before. In Eastern Oregon, six self-guided driving tours have been created to direct visitors and residents to a variety of agricultural products and experiences across the eleven counties represented by the Eastern Oregon Visitors Association. Maps and brochures are available for download at www.visiteasternoregon.com or in print at local visitor centers throughout the region. Bring along a cooler or insulated shopping bag and allow sufficient time to enjoy the sights, smells, sounds and scenery along the way! Following is a description of each route:

Union County Farm Loop

The fertile soil, plentiful water and relatively mild climate of the broad Grande Ronde Valley made it appealing to pioneers traveling west on the Oregon Trail. When gold was found in the surrounding mountains, some farmers knew the payoff would come from using a plow instead of a pickaxe. Raising food for miners meant a steady and nearby market for their products. Towns sprang up around the edges of the valley, leaving the valley floor available for crops. The pattern remains the same today, with large farms and ranches sprawling across the valley, orchards and gardens hugging the foothills and cattle grazing where crops won’t grow. The Union County Farm Loop features farm stands loaded with fresh produce, goat dairies, honey purveyors and you-pick or we-pick orchards. There are seasonal events and attractions, chances to cuddle a fuzzy lamb or watch calves play chase. Find farm fresh eggs and fill the freezer with locally produced poultry, beef, or pork. In the fall, pumpkins and corn mazes are highlights.

Whisky & Rocks Farm Loop

Pendleton is best known for beautiful wool blankets and garments and for its wild West rodeo. But the area surrounding the city is covered with rolling fields of wheat, fragrant onions, and potatoes. Orchards and berry patches have been around for over a century, but vineyards and wineries and The Rocks District AVA have given Milton-Freewater a more recent shot at fame. Artisans produce delicious chocolates, cheese and fine works of art in leather. Museums and tours throw the spotlight on the area’s colorful history. The Whisky & Rocks Farm Loop offers a sampling of the area’s many gifts from the land – and adult craft beverages make the bounty tasty and available year-round. Several Pendleton restaurants feature items locally grown or produced.

River to Hills Farm Trail

What could be more refreshing than a slice of cold watermelon on a hot day? Hermiston is so famous for the luscious fruit people await the summer melon harvest with anticipation. But melons of all sizes and types aren’t the only food crops grown here. Berries are the stars of early summer. Onions and potatoes find their way by the truck load to plants for processing, mid-summer into fall. And apples, peaches and apricots are ripe for picking in late summer and fall – or let someone else do the picking for you! You’ll find lots of farm stands throughout the River to Hills Farm Trail, along with restaurants whose menus feature all of this amazing field-fresh fare. There are acres and acres of grape vines and two wineries in the tiny town of Echo, so plan enough time to taste their wines and take home a few bottles to share with friends!

Four Rivers Farm & Garden Trail

The area around Ontario, Nyssa and Vale, Oregon, is well known for producing onions, sweet corn and other food crops. Farm stands are easy to find on both sides of the Snake River, which is the border between Oregon and Idaho and the largest of four rivers that flow through the fertile landscape. Fruit orchards and flower gardens bring color and flavor to the Ontario farmers’ market. Take the Four Rivers Farm & Garden Trail and visit a buffalo ranch, ruffle bunny ears at Windy Sage Farms, and visit the Garden Gallery, a unique urban farm stand, hair salon and art gallery, all in one. Along the way, you will see the various methods of farming and irrigation systems needed to grow the wide variety of crops. Stop by historic sites that tell stories of the Oregon Trail migration. End your journey with a sampling of local food and beverages served at Second & Vine Bistro in Ontario.

John Day River Food Trail

Driving through the rugged, dramatic and arid landscape along the John Day River, one might wonder what kind of food could be grown here. There are cattle on the hills and bighorn sheep can be seen grazing in small meadows near the winding highway, but where are the crops? Drop into the small valleys that dot the route and you will see the difference a little water, rich soil and a lot of hard work can make. Patches of lush green grass, robust gardens and the huge Thomas Orchards at Kimberly (which draws fruit lovers from throughout eastern and central Oregon) tell the real story. Meet the personalities that flavor the region. Stop by Prairie Creek Fish Farm, which has been in the Driscoll family for over 60 years. Sample Munk Bergin’s mixes of organic cereals and learn about the heritage seed library he is creating for Grant County. Relish a slice of fruit pie at the Dayville Café and check out the Dayville Mercantile – where you will find local eggs, an Oregon Liquor Store and so much more. Stay at Stellar Cabin near Kimberly and get to know the owner, Jody, and her mules. Take this drive and you will fall in love with the spectacular geology and the people who choose to live here.

Wallowa County Barn Tour

This far northeast corner of Oregon is best known for its large glacier-carved lake, incredible mountains and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Dotted across the scenic landscape are the symbols of settlement times, when big, often red barns sheltered livestock and their feed through tough, seemingly endless winters. The weather has softened a bit and the barns have many uses today, but they still stand tall against the peaks of the Wallowa Mountains, making them the subjects of many masterful paintings and photographs. There are more than thirty of the historic structures along this driving tour. You won’t want to miss seeing any of them. Ah, if they could speak, the stories they would tell!

The Eastern Oregon Visitors Association is the official regional destination management and marketing organization (RDMO) for the eleven easternmost counties in Oregon. The organization and these projects are funded by statewide transient lodging taxes and grants from Travel Oregon, the state tourism marketing and development agency.

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For more information, photos and maps of each farm loop or trail, contact Janet Dodson,  janetd@eoni.com or 541.786.8006.

Related Materials:  Farm Stands and Food Trails article