Fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk and meat products don't have to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to get to your kitchen. Many of these products can be discovered on-site at the farms and ranches where they are cultivated.
An old-fashioned tactic for selling and buying fresh food, farm stands allow customers to make direct contact with those who grow their vittles.
By Jennifer Strange
When well-chilled, this salad will wow diners of all ages. The mix of vinegars is at once sweet, mellow and tart. Note how the garlic delivers a flavor pop while the basil marries perfectly with the juicy ripeness of the season's best tomatoes.
2 large, ripe slicing tomatoes such as Beefsteak, thickly sliced
Half a medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Layer tomatoes on a large platter with high sides, overlapping slices slightly. Evenly layer red onion slices on top of tomatoes. Sprinkle with chopped garlic followed by salt and pepper, making sure everything is evenly seasoned. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and cheese. Make the vinaigrette by combining sugar, vinegars and olive oil and shaking well. Pour over salad. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Serves 4.
"Farm stands were the traditional way of doing business and many of us wish there were more of them," says Wendy Siporen, director of Thrive (The Rogue Initiative for a Vital Economy) in Ashland. Thrive publishes an annual guidebook called Rogue Flavor, which lists growers, markets, restaurants and other businesses that have pledged to "think local first."
Fox Run Farm on North Main between Medford and Jacksonville is one such place. Open six days a week and owned by Laura and Duane Goodman, the stand overflows with local produce, including apples from the couple's orchard of 60 antique varieties.
"We specialize in supporting the small, local farmers," explains Duane Goodman. "At first we had to find these small farmers and now they bring it to us. It's good for them, great for us and good for the customers."
Business has been booming for the Goodmans, who also grow Asian pears, plums and grapes and offer fresh-pressed cider through the fall.
"We have our regular customers and new ones every day," Goodman reports. "It's a social thing — it's not just a little stand, it's an event where people know each other and chat."
Making a special trip to where one's food is grown isn't just about supporting local growers and eating fresh, healthy food — such an adventure can also create lifetime memories.
At Willow-Witt Ranch high in the Southern Cascades east of Ashland, school children witness how an off-the-grid and totally organic ranching operation runs on solar and hydroelectric power. Owners Suzanne Willow and Lanita Witt treasure the opportunity to show off their milk and pack goats, hogs, laying and broiling hens and gardens.
Visitors can place orders for meat or purchase goat milk, eggs, beets, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, onions, shallots and garlic straight from the barn. They can also join the pack goats on a catered hike up Grizzly Peak or venture along the ranch's many birding trails.
"The first benefit of visiting a working farm is you know where your food comes from," says Willow. "You can physically see how your animal or vegetable food is raised and you can meet the people who are putting the input into your food."
Especially important to Willow and Witt is educating kids about the process.
Willow says, "For kids to know what animals do and how people can lovingly take care of them, even when they're used for food, the kids, one at a time, may grow up thinking more about raising their own food, working on an organic farm and being outside."
So don't just bring your shopping bag to one of the Rogue Valley's blossoming farm stands — bring an open mind and a camera. Meaningful moments at these old-fashioned fruit and vegetable stands are as abundant as summer's ripe tomatoes.
For an updated list of local growers, farm stands, growers markets and locally oriented events and restaurants, pick up a Rogue Flavor guide: