The local food movement, stirred in recent years by ever-increasing fuel prices, has been a hot topic in urban areas.
Woody Wolfe and his children work the fields at Wolfe Ranch. The ranch is among those that is visited regular by Source Tours. Photo/Meagan Wolfe
While trendy in other regions of the country, Wallowa Countians have been growing their own meat and produce all along. Backyard gardens and local farms and ranches have fed Wallowa County for generations and some of the same families have tended the land since pioneer settlement.
Wallowa County native Jenny Hawkins-Hogrefe and Source Tours has taken the local food movement one step further. With her tours of Wallowa County farms, ranches, inns and caterers she is drawing visitors into the area with a new carrot, so to speak.Source Tours showcases organic grass-fed beef, gourmet vegetables, habitat restoration and plenty of opportunities to enjoy a wide-range of delectable dishes from Wallowa to Joseph.
Tours began in June and will run throughout the summer.
“I love good food and local food,” Hawkins-Hogrefe said.
Her ancestors homesteaded in Wallowa County so she combines her love of food and the land. She wants to give people, specifically from urban areas who do not have a connection with agriculture, an opportunity to see where the great food they seek in their local farmers markets and upscale restaurants comes from.
Oregonians are often ahead of the curve with health care, social issues and land management. In the early 1970s, long before the U.S. Department of Agriculture got involved, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Northern California chapters of Regional Tilth sprang up setting industry standards defining what “organic’’ means. In 1986 Oregon Tilth, based in Salem, evolved from the regional movement and has been in the forefront of the organic food movement ever since.
Source Tours appeal to the 40- to 60-year-old demographic with a passion for gourmet food and love for responsible land use.
“They may not have the time or desire to be farmers, but they appreciate and are interested in local, high quality food,” Hawkins-Hogrefe said.
First stop on the tour is the Carman Ranch in Wallowa. The Carmans are involved in a native grass restoration project that supports their cattle. After a tour of their rangeland improvement they offer lunch served outside with a view of the Eagle Caps. The lunch features hamburgers made from their grass-fed beef.
Next visit is to the Wolfe Ranch, also in Wallowa. Former cattle ranchers, the Wolfes are a classic example of an evolving family operation that has transitioned several times over the past century. Now hay and wheat farmers, the Wolfes are also involved in a riparian project along the Wallowa River displaying both sustainable farming as well as habitat restoration.
Further east Source Tours drops in on Linda Wofford of Lostine. Wofford raises free-range chickens and has a small dairy guarded by Akbash sheep dogs. Guests will sample private reserve cheese and learn about the processes of raising organic eggs and milk.
Beth Gibbons, actively involved in the Wallowa County Farmers Market as well as the owner of her own gardens, greenhouses and catering company, Backyard Gardens Catering, will showcase her operation in Joseph.
Prairie Creek Farms is also in Joseph and has been run by the Thiel family for several generations. The Thiels supply farmers markets and some of the finest Portland restaurants with their organic potatoes and carrots. They are ranked as some of the best produce growers in the country.
Another visit will be with Wendy McCullough, who has recently returned home to the Joseph area to run the family farm. She is in the early stages of raising meat goats.
The tour ends with a locavores feast presented by Backyard Gardens Catering.
Hawkins-Hogrefe currently splits her time between Wallowa County, where she was raised, and the Willamette Valley. She attended Smith College in Massachusetts and came home to do her master’s work at Oregon State.
She has worked for guide services in the Wallowas and her grandfather was Red of Red’s Horse Ranch on the Minam River. Entertaining and feeding guests in the Eagle Caps is another family tradition.
“I want to share the splendor of the Wallowa Mountains and the great food raised here,” she said.
Her guests have come from all over the country and have marketed to international visitors as well.
For more information visit www.sourcetours.com.