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Love Your Farmer 

There's still time for the last of the CROP farmers markets this season

Farms surround the towns of Central Oregon, so it's not tough to get to know your local farmers. The CROP farmers markets and tours aim to achieve just that.

Farms surround the towns of Central Oregon, so it's not tough to get to know your local farmers. The CROP farmers markets and tours aim to achieve just that.

Do you know where your food comes from? Do you know your farmers practices? Do you want to?

Knowing where your food is grown and processed is an important part of healthy living. Last year the Crook County Small Farm Alliance received a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant intended to promote farms that market directly to consumers, whose products are not meant for large production. Crook County Small Farm Alliance partnered with the High Desert Food and Farm Alliance to form Crooked River Open Pastures (CROP), an agritourism program aimed at giving the public an opportunity to get to know local farms a little bit better. Instead of putting together a traditional style farmers market in downtown Prineville, the alliances opted to host farm tours and a farmers market at one of the six participating farms, or at a sponsor's locale.

Each event is different and takes on the personality of the host. From April through September, the events run from 10am to 2pm on the first and third Saturday each month, with each one being relaxed fun for the whole family. This year the farm tours have featured demonstrations like sheep shearing and goat education. Other highlights included hayrides, a Mother's Day celebration, petting zoos, live music and games. Outside vendors such as Cada Dia Cheese, Just 1 Acre, and Bead Happy have joined the markets, adding more locally-made products to the mix. Expect to see fresh produce, cheeses, goat milk, beef jerky, sausages, dry rubs, spices, soaps, incense, vintage jewelry and prayer flags. All the vendors are very inclusive; a true reflection of the community. It feels more like a family barbecue than an organized public event. Vendors and farmers catching up on days past, sharing their bounties and welcoming strangers to be a part of the conversation.

The CROP farmers are really excited to meet the community and spread awareness not only about their farms and products, but also about small farms in general. It's surprising how distant modern U.S. society is from knowing where its food comes from. Even those of us living in rural Central Oregon surrounded by farms and ranches. Even when we buy local labels at the grocery stores, do we really know our farmers and their practices? Take this opportunity to visit a local farm and see what happens.

This second year of CROP is coming to a close with one last event on Sept. 17 at Bluestone Gardens in Powell Butte. Opened four years ago by long-time 4H leader Onda Hall-Hueners and her husband Mike, Bluestone Gardens raises cattle, goats, chickens, pigs and a garden. Their processes are all organic, even though they don't have a USDA label. Since they eat what they produce, good quality is important to them. The chickens are fed grains and leftover fruits and veggies. The entirely grass-fed cattle are raised for their beef and their goats are raised for both dairy and meat. You won't find their products packaged on store shelves—only at the farm, fairs or the CROP markets. Their meat is sold live, allowing the customer to butcher the animal to their taste. Onda says this last event will be much more flexible than this year's CROP opener, when they hosted Goat Education Day. Guided tours of the 35-acre farm will be offered as people gather, giving a chance to get a little closer to the animals—though petting is not encouraged. Pick up some fresh herbs, learn about landscape design and stop to adore the baby pigs. Being the final event of the season, the market is sure to be in good cheer with live music and games.

Stay on the lookout for the 2017 CROP Passport and tour schedule so you can plan on visiting each of the CROP farms: Bluestone Gardens, Dancing Cow Farm, Prineville Lavender, DD Ranch, Wine Down Ranch and Windy Acres Dairy.

CROP Event

Saturday, Sept 17, 10am-2pm

Bluestone Gardens,

12555 SW Hwy 126, Powell Butte



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