Eastern Oregon’s Morrow County has been called “The Breadbasket of the State” for the abundant variety of food that is grown here and then processed and shipped around the world.
In the wide open country near Boardman, a new silo-framed show-stopper catches your eye and invites you inside the SAGE Center, one of the most intriguing and impressive storytelling sites in Oregon.
Your first adventure is a doozy as you are welcomed aboard the only indoor hot air balloon ride in the state. It offers a bird’s-eye view of the many faces of Morrow County’s recreation and more.
According to SAGE Center Manager Kalie Davis, “This facility really tells the story of the history of Morrow County and the new businesses that have settled here and how they touch — not just the local community with jobs — but also populations of people throughout the world.”
The hot air balloon ride is one of many interactive displays that set the SAGE Center apart from other museums.
On the main level, follow the salmon that have been painted onto an ocean-blue trail, leading you to discover the many stories behind Eastern Oregon’s agriculture.
You can learn to drive a tractor or turn an irrigation wheel and watch the desert transform into a Garden of Eden with Oregon fruits and vegetables.
“I think it’s fantastic,” says visitor Gabino Gispert. “You can see the history of the region and you can see different kinds of industries like a potato factory or a cheese factory. You will see it all here.”
Gispert knows all about the reach of Oregon potatoes.
He is the operations manager for Calbee North America, a food production company and one of 40 major food companies now operating at the Port of Morrow near Boardman. Gispert points to the museum’s centerpiece exhibit: how a potato becomes a french fry, a remarkable visual process that shows off each step that makes a spud into a fry.
Gispert adds that visitors will learn how his company arrived in Boardman in 2007 to take advantage of easy transportation, cheap hydroelectricity rates and abundant crops that are grown just 17 miles away.
“I think many visitors will really be surprised to learn that we are sending products to Asia,” he says. “In fact, we send our food products all over the world.”
He’s right! A nearby world map displays Morrow County’s wide reach to scores of countries that depend upon Oregon’s homegrown food products.
Davis is hopeful that visitors will stop in, take a stroll and learn more about the Oregon bounty that feeds the world: “I think people will gain new appreciation for how far agriculture has really come and also learn more about the varied food-based businesses that are located in Eastern Oregon.”