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Going gourmet

Doreen Bradshaw is proud of her “meat-and-potatoes-type family.”

Going gourmet with some of her produce, however, is a proposition Bradshaw couldn’t refuse. Her 7 Oaks Farm will be just one local grower represented at Crop Up, a feast that will be served up at an impromptu farmers market.

“This is kind of new territory almost,” says the 80-year-old lifelong farmer. “We kind of need to have a presence there.”

A statewide dinner series, Crop Up lays a communal table for small farmers, food-industry insiders and eaters who favor foodstuffs grown close to home. The event comes Sept. 13 to Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center. Tickets cost $20.

A “really affordable, delicious evening,” Crop Up shakes up the farm-to-table dinner’s typical format, says Wendy Siporen, executive director of Thrive. The event is one of several dinners that coincide with the Eat Local Celebration, Sept. 9-25, organized by Thrive, a nonprofit business-development organization and local-food advocate.

The bounty of Oregon’s specialty crops inspire this multicourse meal that mimics the pop-up restaurant trend, popular primarily in urban areas. With Specialty Crop Block Grant funds, Crop Up expands a trendy concept outside the city to rural regions of the state.

“So many people are so far removed from agriculture,” says Bradshaw.

Guests can take a close-up look at some of Oregon’s 200 specialty crops during the Crop Up Market Showcase, which immediately precedes the dinner. In addition to 7 Oaks, about 15 vendors are expected to assemble a miniature farmers market at the Extension, says Jason Ball, research chef for Oregon State University. Among them are Fry Family Farm of Talent, Central Point’s Historic Hanley Farm and Happy Days Products, Sutherlin’s Inland Empire Foods, Kerbyville Natural Farm, the Applegate’s Oshala Farm and winery Quady North.

Featured vendors and other local sources will furnish about 98 percent of the ingredients, says Ball, adding that the inherently seasonal menu for 100 diners won’t be finalized until about a week before the event. Ten courses, along with several snacks, beverages and desserts, composed last year’s spread at the Food Innovation Center in Portland. Chef Dustin Farley of Medford’s Porters restaurant will lend a hand to Southern Oregon’s Crop Up, says Ball.

“I have no idea what they might put together,” says Bradshaw. “Maybe I’ll develop a taste for something exotic.”

Barley ice cream sandwiches, carrot-top pistou, fresh wasabi root and green harissa infused last year’s event with uncommon flavors. Ingredients ran the gamut from apricots, buttermilk and chickpeas to ramps, squash and tuna.

Unusual melon varieties, including yellow-fleshed watermelons, Canaries and Crenshaws, likely will contribute to Crop Up, courtesy of 7 Oaks. The family farm known for sweet corn grows dozens of the vegetables, herbs and other foodstuffs identified as specialty crops by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, a partner with OSU in Crop Up.

“I thought we don’t grow anything that different,” says Bradshaw, adding that she was surprised by the cornucopia that constitutes Oregon’s specialty crops. “We just happen to have some walnut trees.”

The nuts are easy to overlook in 7 Oaks’ farm store, where corn compels most customers until the autumn arrival of pumpkins and winter squash by the ton. The store at 5504 Rogue Valley Highway, Central Point, does such brisk business during the growing season that 7 Oaks hasn’t attended local farmers markets for several years, says Bradshaw, adding that she basically browses the store for her family’s dinner.

“We eat a great variety of veggies and fruits.”

And although refined recipes aren’t really her style, Bradshaw says she’s excited to experience her familiar vegetables as a Crop Up novelty. For more information about the Eat Local Celebration, see www.buylocalrogue.org/events/eat-local-celebration

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.

Smoked carrots with carrot top pistou was one of 10 courses served at the 2015 Crop Up dinner at the Food Innovation Center in Portland. This year's Eat Local Celebration will feature a local Crop Up feast served up at an impromptu farmers market at the Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Elsesser Photography