Growers share their bounty


Multiple vendors will be selling their locally-grown products at the Fall Farm Festival

by: RON HALVORSON - Billy Estridge will be hosting the Fall Farm Festival at her Timber Creek Ranch Farm just west of Prineville. She will be offering tastings of lamb products.

Even though the Prineville Farmers’ Market is closed for the season, locavores need not worry.

There will be one last chance to purchase quality, locally-grown produce when many of the Market’s vendors and other local producers gather tomorrow for the Fall Farm Festival.

“It’s kind of a year-end celebration, but it’s also a chance for people to sell the last of their pumpkins, or the last of the really fresh produce,” said Billy Estridge, Timber Creek Farm’s owner and festival host. “We planned this for October because everybody’s going, ‘Gosh. I’ve got so much produce. I don’t know what I’m going to do when the market ends.’”

Along with pumpkins, squash, and other fresh, seasonal produce, knitters will be on hand with woolen goods for sale, and at least one vendor will be offering fresh salsa.

Estridge said this is also a great way for people to come and get to know the local growers who are doing a “pretty good job” raising all kinds of food.

“Prineville’s really doing a good job in a lot of ways with the food movement, and I don’t think the growers, the producers, in Prineville get the recognition they deserve,” she said. “This is an opportunity for people to come out — whether they’re coming from Prineville, or Redmond, or Bend, or Madras, or wherever — and meet some different growers, and just talk with people who are doing things a little bit differently.”

The festival will also provide an opportunity to watch sheep being sheared, weavers and spinners, and working dogs as they show off their herding skills. Likewise, people can get a close-up look at farm livestock, courtesy of members from the local 4-H club, who will be able to answer questions about their animals.

For her part, Estridge will be offering tastings of lamb products. This is, after all, her farm, and she raises sheep.

“That’s another way for me to make sure people know that I do sell year-round, and that I have product always available,” she said. “I think I'm probably like most farmers and ranchers — I raise a pretty dad-gone good product, and I’m not worth a tinker’s darn at marketing it. What somebody told me years ago, it doesn’t matter what your widget is, if you can’t sell it, it's worthless. There’s some real validity to that.”

Estridge said she’s been hosting this event - depending on the weather — for the last three or four years. Also, since she’s active with the Prineville Farmers’ Market — and may be one of its biggest supporters — it’s always played an important role.

Not everyone appreciates what the Market has to offer, she said. There was the Prineville woman, for example, who looked disdainfully at the half-dozen vendors and complained that there were no fruits and vegetables. There weren’t enough vendors. No one would come to this tiny market, she maintained.

However, there were two vendors, right next to each other, who had their tables “heaping full” of vegetables - carrots, broccoli, beans, and tomatoes, among others.

“Exactly what is it that you want that is not here?” Estridge asked her. “You’d be hard pressed to name a vegetable that can be grown in Central Oregon that wasn’t on those tables.”

The farmers’ market is struggling for a couple of reasons, according to Estridge. Prineville’s economy hasn’t picked up like elsewhere, and people aren’t willing to spend that little extra for fresh, local produce, when they can get an imported product that the grocery store purchased in bulk, for less.” You can’t fault people for that,” Estridge said. “They’ve only got so many dollars to spend. It’s just another measure of the times.”

Also, she said, the market doesn’t have enough foot traffic. People just don’t come in.

“They see it’s a small market, but they don’t stop in and check out the quality that is available. Most Saturdays, there’s all the vegetables that you could want there. The only thing I couldn’t buy at the Farmer’s Market this year — and I tried — was Brussels sprouts. I think that’s saying something.”

Estridge is excited about this year’s festival, and anticipates good weather, unlike last year when rain and wind caused cancellation.

“Stop in. Visit. See what’s goin’ on. Try whatever samples are here. Watch the dogs. There should be something for everybody.”