I adore food. I love cooking it, eating it, playing with it, and learning new things about it.
That’s one of many reasons I’m smitten with the Farm and Ranch Tour offered by Well Traveled Fork. I’ve had the pleasure of taking several classes and tours with Chef Bette Fraser, and though they’re all outstanding, the Farm and Ranch Tour takes the cake.
The tour offers an in-depth look at where food comes from and how it can be grown or raised sustainably, organically, and naturally around Central Oregon. Though I’ve lived in Bend more than 14 years, I grew up in the agricultural hub of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. To say gardening in Bend’s high desert climate is uniquely challenging is akin to saying snow is a bit chilly.
Suffice it to say, I was eager to see how the pros do it.
Our first stop on the tour was RedTail Farms, where owner Heidi introduced us to pigs, sheep, and chickens and let us peer into her greenhouse packed with leafy goodness. More importantly, we learned how all of it can be raised without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, anitibiotics, inorganic chemicals, or cursewords.
I might be lying about the cursewords.
Cursing or not, this was a pleasant place to learn about the environmental and health impacts of farming. I may have felt a twinge of guilt gazing at a tail-wagging piglet and thinking, “you’d be delicious with scrambled eggs,” but it felt good knowing farmers like Heidi go out of their way to treat the animals with kindness and dignity (or as she put it, “we spoil them rotten.”)
Next on the agenda was a stop at Crescent Moon Alpaca Ranch. One of the largest breeders in the United States, Crescent Moon has been operating in Central Oregon for more than nine years, and currently has about 180 alpacas.
In case you’ve never touched an alpaca, imagine the softest thing you’ve ever laid hands on and then amplify that by ten times the cuteness and fluff. That’s an alpaca, and our assembled group had a wonderful time mingling with them before heading into the on-site boutique to purchase socks and sweaters and hats made with alpaca wool.
Our lunchtime stop included wine tasting at Faith, Hope, & Charity Vineyards. The beauty of this vineyard and event center took my breath away, and the quality of the wine knocked my socks off. That left me panting and barefoot as I sat there at a lovely little bistro table in their tasting room and devoured the delicious lunch prepared by Chef Bette.
I’m not ashamed to admit I had four helpings of her warm red cabbage salad with roasted chicken. It was so scrumptious I begged for the recipe and wept tears of joy when she gave it to me.
Our post lunch stops included Rainshadow Organics (where we got to mingle with the farmers and learn about everything from their Community Supported Agriculture program to the Meet the Farmer dinner they were doing later that week) followed by a stop at DD Ranch to pet an endless array of critters while owner Mike Duggan educated us about potatoes, pumpkins, and the difference between grain fed and grass fed beef.
In the end, our bellies were stuffed with great food, our souls were fed by amazing scenery, and our minds were packed with incredible information about sustainable farming and ranching practices in Central Oregon. You can’t beat that for only $50 a person and a generous half-day tour led by one of the region’s savviest foodies.
If you’re looking for a unique experience that’s unlike anything you’ll get with any other tour in Central Oregon, you won’t want to miss the Farm and Ranch Tour from the Well Traveled Fork. For reservations or to learn more about seasonal routes, call 541-312-0097.