People picking blueberries from Perry Hill Farm

Get to Know the Farmers and Artisan Producers on the Great Oaks Food Trail

Editor’s Note: Marion & Polk Counties are in Phase 2 of Oregon’s re-opening plan. Non-essential travel is allowed. Face coverings are required in all indoor public places and outdoor areas where you cannot maintain a safe physical distance. To protect our communities, we ask everyone to follow Oregon's Safe+Strong guidelines. We're all in this together. Welcome to the Most Oregon Part of Oregon!

Published October 8, 2020

The Great Oaks Food Trail invites visitors and locals alike to explore the scenic beauty and unique products of the Polk County area west of Salem. With experiences ranging from craft beer tasting to filling a bucket full of blueberries, the Great Oaks Food Trail will guide guests on a journey filled with culinary treasures and unique agritourism experiences. Explorers can choose their own adventure by visiting any of the 40-plus stops on the Trail or follow one of three suggested itineraries.
  
Xicha Brewing
Opened in 2017, Xicha Brewing is the Pacific Northwest’s only Latinx brewery. Operating under the motto “Cerveza – Comida – Cultura (beer, food, culture),” the team at Xicha aims to create an inclusive, family-friendly environment by creating community around quality, fresh Latin American food and house-brewed European ales and lagers. Their goal is to honor Latin American traditions while constantly seeking opportunities where those traditions creatively collide with new ideas. The restaurant and brewery is owned by Ricardo and Maggie Antunez, who also own Pura Vida Cocina in McMinnville. Ricardo is the chef, while Maggie heads up the front of the house. Matt Dakopolos serves as Xicha’s head brewer, while Ben Mendoza is the business manager.
 

 
Wings and a Prayer Alpacas
Wings and A Prayer Alpacas was established in 1998 by Randy and Barbara Coleman. Their alpaca adventure - as they like to call it -  currently consists of approximately 60 animals - mainly Suri alpacas. Those visiting the farm can expect to greet an alpaca, learn about how they are raised and bred, and visit the retail store, which features a selection of alpaca clothing and accessories, home decor and basically “everything alpaca!”

Prior to raising alpacas, Randy worked as a journeyman mechanic and Barbara as an executive secretary. As the herd continued to grow, Randy and Barbara decided to leave their day jobs and focus on raising alpacas and running the farm full-time.

In July 2007, the couple moved Wings and A Prayer Alpacas from the McMinnville area to a farm in Amity. The farm is open to anyone who wants to visit and talk about alpacas - whether you are seasoned breeder or merely interested in learning more about the alpacas and life on the farm. Visitors may also get to meet the Great Pyrenees who reside on the farm and serve as the livestock guardians.
 
Mamere’s Guest House
Mamere’s Guest House is a historic, family-run Bed and Breakfast located in downtown Monmouth near Western Oregon University and close to local boutiques and fine eateries. Emily McNaultie is the Co-Innkeeper and has been operating the BnB since 2016.
 
Emily grew up on a small Alaskan island and spent her summers working in a bed and breakfast. She always dreamed of owning a BnB. Later, she moved to Corvallis, Oregon, and worked in the public health field while her husband worked in Salem. Together, they decided they needed to live somewhere between Corvallis and Salem and landed in Monmouth. They fell in love with Monmouth’s small-town charm. Even with her busy job in the public health field, Emily never forgot about her summers working at a BnB in Alaska. She contacted the closest BnB, Mamere’s Guest House and started working with the owner on Saturdays to see if she still enjoyed it. By a stroke of luck, Mamere’s owner decided to retire, and Emily made a decision that would change her life forever. She, along with her family, decided to take ownership of Mamere’s Guest House.
 
Mamere’s is truly a family-run operation. Emily’s parents own the BnB; her sister painted the iconic murals; her brother, Eli, is co-innkeeper with Emily; and Emily’s two children are the official innkeepers in training.
 

Wildman Farms
Wildman Farms features a tasty collection of cherries, apples, pluots, and a variety of berries, available for U-pick and we-pick experiences in Dallas -  along with a vegetable greenhouse, chickens, eggs and Scottish Terrier puppies. Pat Wildman owns and runs the farm with the help of some staff and friends.
 
Pat grew up in the farming industry, first helping on her parent’s farm in Kansas. In 1971, Pat moved to Oregon. When her late husband’s father bought a farm in Dallas, she found herself in the farming industry again, helping her father-in-law. Before Pat became involved with the farm, they only grew cherries that were turned into maraschino’s. Today, the farm grows a variety of fruits with a higher-yielding crop. Every season brings new challenges and every day looks different for Pat. She relies on her deep knowledge of agriculture to overcome challenges and to ensure that she has a healthy crop with exceptional taste.
 
One of Pat’s favorite things about running the farm is sharing her bounty of produce and knowledge with visitors. For example, when kids come to the farm, Pat instructs them not only on how to pick fruit but tells them about the plants, so they leave with a deeper understanding of the land and how products grow from it. Pat deeply enjoys the work she does on the farm and watching the fruits of her labor grow.
 
West Valley Taphouse
West Valley Taphouse is a full-service taphouse and family-friendly restaurant located in Dallas. It has 65 beverages on tap including local beer, wine, cider, kombucha and more. Customers can pair beverages with a flavorful dish featuring local ingredients in the restaurant or take a growler to go. Suzanne and Sam Dufner are the proud owners of the taphouse. You can find Sam behind the bar talking about beer and making sure there is “no crap on tap” as the sign above the bar clearly reads.
 
Sam was a high school science teacher before opening the taphouse. His co-workers - other science teachers - used their scientific knowledge for the greater good: beer making. Sam, already having experience making hard cider from his family orchard, enjoyed these conversations and deepened his appreciation for craft fermented beverages. While having a deep understanding of the brewing process is useful, his favorite aspect about West Valley Taphouse is interacting with customers while they are enjoying his products. Sam tests every item before it goes on tap, ensuring that it is of high quality and that it tastes great. The West Valley Taphouse has been in operation for about four years, and the owners are happily looking forward to many more.

Independence Ice Cream Shop
The Independence Ice Cream shop is an old-fashioned ice cream, gift shop and tea house located in the heart of downtown Independence. Customers can enjoy classic old-fashioned ice cream treats or unique local favorites like Nutella stuffed bananas. And in case you are wondering - yes, they have a specialized machine that stuffs ripe bananas with the filling!
 
Andrea Holliday moved to Independence 15 years ago. She and her husband were drawn to the friendly, welcoming nature of the area. She worked in many small boutiques in downtown Independence but felt a need to open something up for herself. As she was working at the Independence Farmers Market one day, she overheard people complain about how there was no ice cream in town. That was the moment she found her niche and opened the ice cream shop, sourcing products as close to home as she could find. Every day, Andrea handles all aspects of the business from baking sweet treats to filling out paperwork. Her favorite thing to do is “scooping smiles” she says, although one could argue that the most sparkling smile belongs to Andrea because she finally found her niche.
 

Salt Creek Cider House
Salt Creek Cider house is a 200-acre orchard and cidery that makes handcrafted hard-pressed cider on site, run by the Rickert family. Family members attend to every step of the cider-making process - from growing their heritage cider apple trees to serving cider in their tasting room.
 
Lindy and Carter Rickert grew up in Polk County. Carter’s family owned a 20-acre hobby farm just outside of Dallas. When they decided they wanted to downsize, Lindy and Carter moved back to Dallas from Nashville, TN, to take over Carter’s family-owned land. On the property, there were a couple of 100-year-old “spitter” apple trees that were planted with the homestead. These trees produced bitter apples (hence the name spitter), and they didn’t know what to do with all that fruit as it wasn’t really edible.
 
Turns out that the spitter trees were heritage cider apple trees that were perfect for pressing due to their high amount of tannin and lots of sugar and acid. So, the Rickerts ordered hard cider starter kits and a hand press and began giving samples to their family and friends. In 2016, they obtained an LLC and started attending business and cider making classes at Oregon State University. A year later, in 2017, during the solar eclipse, they opened their property for camping with an added bonus: a free cider tasting. They thought if complete strangers liked the hard cider as much as their family and friends did, then maybe they could turn it into a business. The reviews came back positive, so they renovated an old cattle barn into a processing and tasting room. The Salt Creek Cider House opened in late 2018.
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Want to know more about the farmers and artisans on the Great Oaks Food Trail? Download the official brochure and start your Mid-Willamette Valley agritourism adventure today!