By Brittany Stovall for Growing Oregon magazine
Travel along Oregon’s agritourism trails, which are mapped out exploration destinations, and you will experience a journey into the heart of the state’s rural agricultural community. Fresh foods, local dining, Oregon culture and charismatic farmers await those who take on these paths.
“It’s our goal to inspire locals and visitors alike to share in this passion for food and farms that’s infused into the culture of our state,” Carey says. “The bounty of Oregon is unmatched with our award-winning wine, beer and food.”
She notes that Oregon tourism is a $10.8 billion industry, generating more than 105,000 jobs in the state.
“Travel Oregon promotes Oregon as a place where visitors can have authentic experiences – especially with makers and producers of incredible artisan foods and beverages,” Carey says. “We, along with our partners throughout the state, have helped to create and promote food and agricultural trails. Trails provide a clear path to explore a niche area of the culinary scene in our state, whether it’s artisan cheese, incredible craft brews, or farms where you can visit and experience the working landscape.”
Wild Rivers Coast Farm Trail
To get a taste of what’s farm-fresh in Oregon, explore the Wild Rivers Coast Farm Trail, which grew out of the Travel Oregon Rural Tourism Studio program. Featuring 11 farms, food businesses and farmers markets from Bandon to Port Orford, the trail offers many experiences ranging from U-pick blueberries, plant nurseries and a local diner serving food from nearby fields and farms, as well as a full-service farm complete with a farm stand, U-pick and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) baskets, and much more.
“Our Farm Trail is filled with interesting locals who love this area of the southern Oregon Coast; it’s the place they call home,” says Cathy Boden of the Eat Fresh & Local Action Team, a group that spearheaded the creation of the trail. The Action Team encourages local businesses to support local food as a way for tourists to experience the area. “Many of our farms have been in the same family for 100 years. These folks love sharing what they know about our area, which is deep in history. Port Orford is the oldest town site on the Oregon coast.”
According to Julie Miller, director of the Bandon Chamber of Commerce, the trail has had a tremendous impact on the area despite just launching in 2015.
“The number of people coming into the visitor’s center at the Chamber asking about the farm trail was really surprising to me,” she says. “This is something the community, local people and visitors have been looking for. They clearly felt the need.”
Actively promoted by the Chamber, the Farm Trail is a milestone for rural areas trying to make their mark in the farm-to-table movement, Miller says.
“We can do our own farm-totable movement here just on a more basic level, and we are proud that we can do this. It’s just the beginning.”
Oregon Cheese Trail
Taking visitors on a tasty adventure through the state, the Oregon Cheese Trail helps enthusiasts explore local cheeses and cheesemakers, as well as restaurants, farmers markets and shops that sell the artisan treats.
Katie Bray, executive director of the Oregon Cheese Guild, which created the cheese trail, says travelers can find 16 creameries open to the public, where delicious cheeses can be tasted and bought.
“As with all of Oregon’s culinary bounty, Oregon’s artisan cheese industry is blessed with an incredible abundance and diversity,” she says. “Our members make cheese with cow, goat and sheep’s milk, with the possibility of water buffalo milk coming soon.”
About the trail’s members, she says, “In addition to being an international group hailing from all over the world, they make cheese with techniques and recipes from places you might expect like France and Italy, but also from Mexico, Argentina, England, Holland, the Alps and more, not to mention all of the original formulas they’ve created right here in Oregon.”
Oregon’s agritourism trails are more than just fresh produce and fine food. For example, glasses are raised across the state along the Oregon Distillery Trail. Proclaimed as the first of its kind in the nation, the trail was formed by the Oregon Distillers Guild to showcase Oregon spirits. It features a variety of tasting rooms, bars, restaurants and liquor retailers to enjoy craft spirits.
“Our rural Oregon communities produce an incredible array of products that are genuinely world class,” Carey says about Oregon’s ag trails. “We are lucky that we only have to travel a short distance from Oregon’s urban areas to have those authentic agritourism experiences.” Explore all of Oregon’s trails at traveloregon.com.