Oregon chefs have known this secret for years: For the absolute freshest ingredients, you’ve got to go straight to the farm. The same is true for winemakers, brewers and distillers, who are opening up their farms and vineyards for on-site tasting experiences. In the Mid-Willamette Valley, it’s easy to enjoy eating, sipping and even spending the night smack in the middle of Oregon’s rural farmlands. Here’s how to plan a trip to the bountiful valley, centered around a farm experience.
Eat on the Farm
Visit Gathering Together Farm to grab a bite in a cozy restaurant located right on an organic vegetable farm. Take a treat home with you from the farmstand: fresh veggies and hot doughnuts rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Call ahead to arrange a tour. In nearby Philomath, The Dizzy Hen — not on a farm but farm-inspired — is a don’t-miss spot for breakfast, with a seasonally changing menu. Try “The Dizzy,” with local poached eggs, ham and chard served with bechamel sauce on top of steamy biscuits.
Long Timber Brewing in small-town Monroe, 17 miles south of Corvallis, serves craft beer in a space designed to pay homage to the town’s history of logging and milling, with giant single-log beams soaring overhead, and old crosscut saws and tools adorning the walls. Ask your server (or any Oregon old-timer) for stories about the menu items. Inspired to create a local meal of your own? The outdoor Corvallis Farmers Market runs mid-April through November, and the Indoor Winter Market runs January through mid-April, with cool-season produce alongside local meat, cheese, eggs and bread.
Midway Farms, halfway between Corvallis and Albany, grows veggies, fruit and flowers with biodynamic farming methods. Visit the farm store inside their big red barn for pickled veggies and gluten-free baked treats. Plan your visit around one of their events, like the autumn cider-pressing parties or twilight yoga classes.
Drink on the Farm
At small family operations, it’s easy to learn the stories behind some of your favorite wines and craft beverages. At Emerson Vineyards, 15 miles north of Corvallis, you can taste in the barrel room and get a sense of how the winemaking process works; or sit out on the deck sipping pinot noir and soaking in views of the Coast range to the west. Either way, there’s a good chance a member of the Johns family — the owners, residents and winemakers — will be pouring your glass.
At Lumos Wine Co. in tiny Wren, 11 miles west of Corvallis, you’ll be tasting in the aptly-named “Big Ol’ Barn” — a remnant of the H Bar H Dude Ranch, a destination for vacationers in the 1940s. Harris Bridge Vineyard, a few miles along curving country roads from Lumos, specializes in vermouth, dessert wines and aperitifs from grapes grown on their small farm alongside the Marys River. Pack a picnic, play lawn games and wander over the historic wooden bridge that gives the vineyard its name. Back in Philomath, Marcotte Distilling is open for tastings on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Try a classic corn whiskey or a flavored variety like hazelnut or cherry moonshine.
Stay on the Farm
Often a trip is about more than just the food — it’s about where you lay your head. Lodging in the Corvallis area ranges from cozy bed and breakfasts to downtown hotels with riverfront views. But if a farm-based stay is what you’re dreaming of, there are plenty of those too. At Lumos Wine Co. Vineyard Cabin, you stay in a vintage one-bedroom cabin on the grounds of a working vineyard. There’s no TV here, so be prepared to enjoy the tranquility — or hit the local trails by foot or mountain bike.
Part of the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail, Leaping Lamb Farm Stay lets you choose from a two-bedroom cottage or a five-bedroom farmhouse on a sheep farm in the Alsea River Valley. During the day you can help out on the farm — collecting eggs, feeding the animals, gardening and brushing their miniature donkey, Paco.
And Donovan Guest Houses embraces the ultimate Pacific Northwest vibes with a stay on a working Christmas-tree farm, just 3 miles from the center of Corvallis. You can sign up for a Japanese pottery class on-site and learn to fire and decorate your own tea bowl.
If You Go:
Looking for more farm fun in the area? Goat Yoga is a worldwide sensation that was born right here in the Willamette Valley, and sometimes includes wine tasting. Watch for the public opening of the Original Goat Yoga World Headquarters, and follow founder Lainey Morse’s No Regrets Farm on Instagram for photos of the happy little goats who started it all. Ever tried grinding your own wheat into flour? Visitors to Thompson’s Mill, 16 miles southeast of Corvallis, can do that and more on a free guided tour of the last working water-powered mill in Oregon. After the tour, take a walk through the 100-year-old orchard and meet the flock of heritage poultry. You’re sure to feel like you’ve stepped back in time.