The state of Oregon is a remarkable place for food. The geography encompasses coastal waters, providing abundant seafood such as Dungeness crab, salmon, and oysters. Mountains and meadows provide mushrooms, berries, fruits, and nuts . . . in particular, hazelnuts. Oregon grows 99 percent of the entire U.S. commercial crop of hazelnuts, and the delectable nut shows up on menus here in all kinds of ways. Rivers provide fish, wineries provide drinkable fruit, and the state’s nearly 40,000 farms provide just about everything else.
The Travel Oregon tourism board put together a few food trails, to help visitors identify various food producers, restaurants, and local lodging in each region. The East Gorge Food Trail, North Coast Food Trail, Wild Rivers Coast Food Trail, and the Great Umpqua Food Trail takes visitors through the region’s farmers markets, wineries, farms with farmstands or u-pick produce or flowers, farm-to-table restaurants, seafood establishments, markets, craft beverage makers, and artisan producers. The dozens of business on these self-guided stops could include spots for foraging, cooking schools, breweries, cideries, and distilleries.
As of April 2019, the southern part of the state now has its own South Willamette Valley Food Trail to highlight wineries, lodging, scenic river views, farms, restaurants and markets serving local ingredients, and farm-to-table restaurants. One of the great things the tourism board is working on is developing signage for bicycle-friendly businesses, so if you’re touring the beautiful backroads of our state by bike, you can always know where to hop in for some bike services and bike-friendly people. View the entire South Willamette Valley Food Trail guide online or pick up the brochure at Eugene, Cascades & Coast Visitor Information Centers and participating businesses.
I recently took a tour to some establishments on the trail, leaving from and returning to downtown Eugene in an easy and fun day trip that took me to a local market for breakfast and coffee, a lavender farm right on the McKenzie River, a historic general store, and a short easy hikeable trail with stunning old growth trees. This is a sample of the “A River Runs Through It” itinerary, which takes you from Springfield to the McKenzie River.
Provisions Market Hall
296 E 5th Ave., Eugene, Oregon
Provisions Market Hall
Provisions is the place to go to fuel up on a delicious breakfast (pastries or avocado toast), and coffee and espresso for the road. If you want to pack a picnic, store employees will happily pack a box for you with cheese, wine, meat, bread, and whatever else you want. Also available are delicious sandwiches or, really, anything delicious that you might want.
WildCraft Cider Works
232 Lincoln St., Eugene
Open Tuesday through Sunday
WiildCraft Cider Works
There are few drinks that tastes more like Oregon than WildCraft’s cider. Made from fruit and botanicals grown only in Oregon, the cider makers utilize unique ingredients such as nettles and wild-harvested mustard blossoms or unique fruits such as quince to make their ciders. WildCraft uses only wild yeast to make their cider, a feat that is difficult and unusual. However, the skill with which it’s made results in a clean, crisp, dry, and delicious cider every time. WildCraft sources fruit from City of Eugene land where old trees have been neglected, and from farms and other wild lands where owners give permission to harvest fruit and herbs that would often go unused. The tasting room is a rustic thing of beauty right in the heart of downtown — easy walking distance to several other stops on the South Willamette Food Trail and with local wines, beer, and non-alcoholic drinks available as well.
McKenzie River Lavender
40882 McKenzie Highway, Leaburg
Open March to December, by appointment only
While McKenzie River Lavender Farm is only open by appointment, owner Carl Tannenbaum is often at home and available. If you’re driving by and want to visit, simply call from the end of the driveway and if she’s home, she’ll walk out and meet you. Or make an appointment for whenever you’re available to go. It’s only about 20 minutes from Provisions although it feels like you’re worlds away. While the farm’s half-acre of lavender, set right alongside the McKenzie River, is stunning when it’s in bloom, it’s still a beautiful stop even when it’s not ready for picking. In Carol’s small store in her home, visitors can purchase soaps and lotions, hydrosols, luscious-smelling oil, potpourri, lavender wands, lavender honey, and more, all made from her lavender. During summer, McKenzie River Lavender celebrates the lavender bloom at their annual Lavender Festival, always held the second weekend of July. This year it’s July 12, 13, and 14, and Carol sets up vendors, music, and lots of other special touches to make it a fun visit.
Organic Redneck Growers
44382 McKenzie Highway, Leaburg
Open daily, late April to December
Organic Redneck Growers
Many restaurants and markets in the Eugene area proudly use or carry Organic Redneck produce. During the summer months, the farm is a popular place for blueberry u-pick — some of the farm’s blueberry bushes are 65 years old and still producing! The farmstand is worth a visit in and of itself, as it is in a beautiful, curvy building built from cob. The farm is family friendly, and visitors are welcome to bring their kids and their dogs and walk around the property. The header image of this post is the entrance to the farm, with a sign showing that it is a stop on the South Willamette Food Trail.
McKenzie General Store
91837 Taylor Rd., McKenzie Bridge
Store: Sun-Thurs 8:30am-9:30ish, Fri-Sat 8:30am-10:00ish,
Grill: Mon-Thurs 11:30am-9, Fri-Sat 11am-9:30, Sun 11am-8:30
McKenzie General Store
If you can’t make it to the WildCraft Cider Works tasting room to pick up a few bottles for your trip, stop at the McKenzie River General Store to get some. This is a true general store, with all the supplies you might need for a day of hiking or floating the river, but with a local and organic twist. They strongly support the local farms in the area and organic options, even going so far as to include a small bulk bin section where you can grab handfuls or locally sourced snacks such as granola. If you’re hungrier than that, step out back to their expansive outdoor seating area with a fire pit and games and order from the menu of the Obsidian Grill. Dip your french fries into housemade marionberry bbq sauce, or enjoy delicious burgers, salmon tacos, garden burgers or a delicious free-range chicken sandwich enhanced with roasted green chiles, melted pepper jack cheese, and bacon. McKenzie General Store is adding a cocktail bar to their outdoor area, and hosts live music during the summer months. Their history is pretty special too . . . the store was built in 1932, and the store is the only structure that has been continuously standing since the town was founded.
Delta Campgrounds Old Growth Trail
If you brought a picnic, consider saving it for this beautiful spot. Drive to the end of the campground here for a 1/2-mile nature trail. Walk through gigantic Douglas firs, which are the primary tree in this part of the Pacific Northwest, and enjoy birds and other animals, and tributaries of Delta Creek which braid through this serene area.