By Beau Eastes

The Bulletin

Crooked River Open Pasture (CROP) events

• All CROP events run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Go to the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance’s website, www.hdffa.org, for more information

• The 2015 Food & Farm Directory, which includes many of the CROP participants, is located in the May 15 edition of The Bulletin.

June 13: Bike tours and post-ride beers at Good Bike Co., 284 NE Third St., Prineville; www.goodbikeco.com

June 20: Carnival and summer solstice party at Smudgie Goose Farm, NE Oneil Way and NW Lone Pine Road; www.smudgiegoosefarm.com

July 11: Tours of Bluestone Gardens, 12555 OR-126, Powell Butte; www.bluestonegl.com

July 18: Tours of Dancing Cow Farm, 2853 Johnson Creek Road, Prineville; www.dancing-cow-farm.homegrowncow.com

Aug. 8: Tours of Flying Pig Hops Farm, 19900 NW Butler Road, Terrebonne; Facebook: Flying Pig Hops

Aug. 15: Timber to Table experience from a professional forester at Wine Down Ranch, 6500 NE Mckay Creek Road, Prineville; www.winedownranch.com

Sept. 12: Bee School at Smudgie Goose Farm, NE Oneil Way and NW Lone Pine Road; www.smudgiegoosefarm.com

Sept. 19: Sneak peak of Brasada Ranch, 16986 SW Brasada Ranch Road, Powell Butte; www.brasada.com

Oct. 10: Farm lecturer Joel Salatin at Windy Acres Dairy, 3320 NW Stahancyk Lane, Prineville; www.windyacresdairy.com

Goat jamborees, bee schools, raw milk lectures and farm tours might just be the next big tourist attractions in Central Oregon.

Crook County is certainly hoping so.

The inaugural Crooked River Open Pasture (CROP) event series launched earlier this month at Dancing Cow Farm northeast of Prineville. Close to 100 agri-tourists showed up for free farm tours and an onsite farmers market at the working ranch that produces beef, chicken, eggs and lamb. Nine more events at various farms and ranches around Crook County are planned throughout the summer.

“The idea came about when we asked ourselves, ‘How do we get more consumers out to our farms?’” said Meiko Lunetta, the program director of the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance, which has partnered with the county to get the CROP series up and running. Brasada Ranch also contributed funds to help with startup costs. “We’re trying to connect families with their food.”

Stealing a page from the Bend Ale Trail, agriculture enthusiasts are encouraged to pick up a passport at their first CROP stop and collect stamps from each event throughout the summer. Farmgoers who collect at least seven stamps will receive a yet-to-be determined farm prize.

“When I was there (at Dancing Cow), there were probably 10 kids on the tour I went on,” said Crook County commissioner Seth Crawford, one of the driving forces behind the farm tour series. “They were so passionate and excited to learn about farming and where their food came from.”

“I think I gave four good farm tours that had at least 25 people in each one,” added Jerre Kosta Dodson, who owns and operates Dancing Cow. “All ages were represented. Fortunately, I had a sow give birth to 14 baby piglets Friday night. Those piglets and some other young pigs that are about 4 months old were definitely the stars.”

In addition to a sneak peak of the host farms, a roving farmers market made up of vendors from other CROP participants is set to take place at each event. Fall in love with the rib-eyes from Dancing Cow? They’ll be selling their beef at each of the different CROP events. Dodson said she sold $500 worth of meat Saturday, more than what she typically makes at high-end farmers markets and without the transportation costs.

“There’s two goals behind the CROP tours,” Crawford said. “We want to inform people about what they’re eating and show what these farms have to offer. And we want to bring more tourism to Crook County.”

No two CROP events will look the same. This past Saturday, at Bluestone Gardens between Redmond and Prineville, the Central Oregon Goat Association held its annual goat jamboree. Smudgie Goose Farm southeast of Terrebonne is planning a summer solstice party and a bee school demonstration later this summer. And Wine Down Ranch has a “Timber to Table” event scheduled, showcasing the work of a professional forester.

Several farms and ranches will host multiple events over the next couple of months, giving ag-curious consumers a look at how a working agricultural operation evolves throughout the year.

“(The first event at Dancing Cow) showed people how farms start (the growing season),” Dodson said. “The grass in the pasture is growing, the gardens haven’t been planted yet, babies are being born. But when we host our next event on July 18, we’ll be in full production.

“The cattle and the sheep will be on the grass and the chickens will be following them,” she added. “The gardens will be in full production. The farm will look quite a bit different. It should help people visualize what farming is about in Central Oregon and how a farm works and changes through the season.”

Even Prineville’s local bike shop, Good Bike Co., is getting in on the agritourism action, offering group bike rides to and from each CROP event. Good Bike Co., is also hosting a CROP event of its own next month.

“We’re really happy and pleased with the first (CROP) event and it’s only going to get better,” Lunetta said. “We’re really hoping we can keep drumming up excitement. … There’s a lot of families that care about where their food comes from. It’s such a fun opportunity for people to see what’s going on and then buy food from the host farm or other vendors. I mean, how many times to you get to go to a farmers market at a farm?”

— Reporter: 541-617-7829; beastes@bendbulletin.com.

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