Crooked River Open Pastures opens farm tour season April 29
Saturday, April 29 kicks off the 2017 Crooked River Open Pastures season at Bluestone Natural Farms in Powell Butte, featuring free farm tours, rotating farmers market and family-friendly activities.
"The thing that I like most about all of the CROP events is that each event is different. The event location rotates, so people get to go out and experience a variety of farms and really get to know the personality of the place as well," said Jess Weiland, the food and farm director for High Desert Food and Farm Alliance.
In its third year, HDFFA and the Crook County Small Farm Alliance organize CROP events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on eight Saturdays April through September.
"The breadth of CROP is to create awareness and education about small farms that are around our area and to allow people to experience those places, whether it's to pet the nose of a pig or to walk through a garden or to see how timber is milled in a small mill," said Jerre Kosta Dodson, a farmer who founded CROP with Seth Crawford.
"It's a festive atmosphere and a fun, sort of different thing to do with your family on a Saturday morning," Weiland added.
The initial 2017 farm tour at Bluestone Natural Farms coincides with Central Oregon Goat Education and Field Day and will have activities for all ages.
"They have goats, and they've started to move into pigs and cow, so it's really fun to see the variety and growth over the years at their farm," Weiland said.
Eight Crook County farms and businesses have signed up to participate this season, including some first timers.
The diversified farm Auntie Bean's has joined the lineup, featuring organic vegetables, herbs, flowers, beef, lamb and even handmade soaps.
Just 1 Acre and Angel's Rest Ranch were part of the pop-up markets last season, but they plan to host their own or jointly host CROP farm tours this summer. Just 1 Acre specializes in lotions and soaps made with goat milk. Angel's Rest Ranch is an off-grid, organic farm that raises poultry, fruit and vegetables.
Others include Kosta Dodson, of Dancing Cow Farm, who will demonstrate wool spinning and show heritage breed animals during the Mother's Day celebration. She'll host a second event in mid-September.
"I do one in the spring to show how the farm starts, and I do one near the end of the season that's to show how the farm turns out," Kosta Dodson explained.
Visitors at Prineville Lavender will walk the lavender labyrinth and visit the lavender and wild flower garden.
"Wine Down Ranch is unique because they have a Bed and Breakfast and timber operation in addition to their ranching," Weiland said.
There, visitors will experience "Timber to Table" and watch and learn from a professional forester.
Good Bike Co. will host a pop-up farmer's market, where shoppers can purchase locally grown, raised and crafted food from Crook County farmers.
Anywhere from four to eight farms will have booths in the pop-up farmer's market at each CROP event to sell their produce, meat and products.
"They'll have music, sometimes they have food there, and I think most importantly, it's a really fun opportunity to get an up-close-and-personal look at some of these farms that are in the area and that are so involved in the community," Weiland pointed out.
And, don't forget your CROP Passport!
Those who travel around to each event throughout the season and collect seven or more passport stamps will be entered into a drawing for a food gift basket filled with items from each farm.
"It's just sort of the farmers' way of saying thank you for attending all of these events and for your support throughout the season," Weiland noted.
On Aug. 5, CROP will host a Farm to Table Community Dinner in downtown Prineville, which serves as a fundraiser for the program.
"It's sort of a high point in the season. There's a lot of product and other meat products that the farms have grown, and they all collaborate to supply the ingredients for the dinner and work with a local chef," Weiland said. "It's a really great example of how the Prineville community farmers all work together to get their products highlighted and to garner more community support."
The High Desert Food and Farm Alliance serves the tri-county area to support a community-based food system in Central Oregon.
HDFFA, Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, and an Oregon Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant help support the CROP program.
"It's an opportunity for people to not only purchase from the farmers, but that they get to tour around and really get to know the place where their food is coming from," Weiland said.
CROP tour dates
Each event is held 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on a select Saturday
April 29: Bluestone Natural Farms
May 13: Dancing Cow Farm and Prineville Lavender
June 10: Wine Down Ranch and Angel's Rest Ranch
July 8: Bluestone Natural Farms
July 22: Just 1 Acre
Aug. 5: Farm to Table Community Dinner
Aug. 19: Good Bike Co.
Sept. 16: Dancing Cow Farm and Prineville Lavender
Sept. 30: Auntie Bean's
Find CROP on Facebook, Instagram and at hdffa.org.