By Robyn H. Smith
Oregon Cattlemen Association
What is agri-tourism? Simply put, it’s the practice of attracting travelers or visitors to an area used primarily for agriculture purposes. Attendees find themselves immersed in the beauty and nostalgia of the countryside while absorbing small gems of information about the farms and ranches that put food on the dinner table.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of such a tour – and what an outstanding example it was! On April 26, the North Central Livestock Association (NCLA), comprised of Wasco and Sherman counties, held their annual Bull Tour with four site visits in the beautiful, rolling, green hills near Condon and Lone Rock. With over 150 attendees, a caravan of cars and several reporters, it was easy to see this was much more than a bull tour.
The first site visit took us down miles of gravel road to John and Phyllis Johnson’s ranch. John has been a life-long advocate and member of OCA and believes in continuing outreach and education to others, which he demonstrated as he presented three different stations of his ranch.
The second stop was a view overlooking the valley of Lone Rock, where we heard from Tom and Jason Campbell about the history of the town and the people who keep it alive. The Campbells also shared valuable information about the invading “Juniper forests” and the importance of controlled burns to manage the noxious tree. One juniper can suck up to 50 gallons of water per day and in a place where water is a necessity to crops and livestock – the trees are a serious threat.
Next, we traveled through Lone Rock (yes, it is named after a large, singular rock) to Tim and Elizabeth Campbell’s ranch, which has been a family operation for over 100 years. Here, attendees relaxed in the warm, spring weather and enjoyed BBQ sandwiches. Some shared stories about their own operation’s perils and triumphs over the past year, while others reminisced on memories of the family land and the unfortunate time when they were no longer able to keep it in the family.
The last site visit was at the ranch of Jim and Georgia Van Winkle. Georgia’s great, great uncle purchased the first family homestead in 1884. Their home sat at the bottom of a green valley, down a dirt road, no buildings in sight, the only sound – a rolling stream. A familiar landscape for many OCA members, but for most Oregonians, it’s a sight they’ve never seen – a lifestyle they know nothing about.
I heard stories from attendees who traveled many hours – some from Bend, the Willamette Valley and Washington to see this country, to learn about these ranching operations and to support this local economy. NCLA did a fantastic job of “spreading the word” about this event, which included a dinner and concert with singer, Adrian “Buckaroogirl” Brannan to wrap up in Condon.
I’m sure you can imagine now, why this agri-tour attracted people from far away towns, retired men and women seeking that “back on the ranch” feeling, and college students hungry for tips and tricks from these longstanding cattle operations. In today’s world, the chance to appreciate family traditions, sustainable agriculture and the country lifestyle is few and far between.
I think it is a proactive duty for the preservation of Oregon agriculture to hold these types of events throughout the state. This is an opportunity for ranchers to educate others, talk to their neighbors and raise awareness about this industry. Please reach out to your county association’s leadership and encourage this type of tour in your local area. You can also contact the OCA office for assistance with promoting and planning.
NCLA would like to thank their major contributors: Jack Field with CKP Insurance and Amanda Whitman with Sherman County SWCD.
A message from NCLA: This tour supports our dual county scholarship program and funding for producer education. This event is also important as a venue for producers to get together, compare practices, visit after a long winter, and have conversations with sponsors and educators. We pride ourselves on selecting speakers and sponsors who will add value to the tour.