It’s refreshing to see the honor system still exists at a rural farmstand in Oregon.
This year many of us have experienced empty shelves and freezers at grocery stores due to the coronavirus pandemic, which also contributed to the closure of major meatpacking plants. There’s also increased concern about labeling and sources of our meat, dairy and produce. As people begin to realize food doesn’t grow in grocery stores, thoughts shift toward the possibility of raising their own food, or buying items from local ranchers and farmstands.
In May of 2019 I spent a week gathering stories and photographs in eastern Oregon. The highlight of the trip was stopping at Liza Jane’s Farmstand along State Highway 82. The two-lane highway winds through the scenic Wallowa Valley that was once home to Chief Joseph and his band of the Nez Perce tribe. Surrounded by historic barns, lush pastures, snow-capped peaks, rushing rivers and small towns sprinkled with quaint coffee shops, cafes and antique stores, the area is nothing short of storybook perfect.
The fourth generation on her family’s 6 Ranch, founded in 1884, Liza Jane McAlister has two farmstand locations: one along the Imnaha Highway in the hamlet of Joseph and the one I visited along Route 82 near Enterprise. Both farmstands are housed in rustic one-room sheds; the Route 82 farmstand is situated in front of the century-ranch homestead. The Dutch doors remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and inside is a host of locally sourced products. A cherry-red refrigerator is stocked with grass-fed Corriente beef and farm-fresh eggs. There are also wood-fired loaves of bread, baked goods, seasonal produce and a self-serve herb garden. Jars of honey made by the ranch’s busy bees are perched on a shelf. I also found gifts to take home, such as homemade biodegradable greeting cards embedded with colorful flower seeds, organic bath and body products, and lucky horseshoes.
Supporting Local Farmers and Ranchers
Prices are neatly written on a chalkboard, and payment is collected via the honor system since the farm stand is not staffed. Simply write down what you took on the ledger, and deposit payment into a locked toolbox with a slot cut in the top. Checks and even Paypal are accepted.
As I stood on the porch, I couldn’t help but think back to my humble childhood where we harvested our own elk and deer meat, raised a hog from time to time, and attempted, with a limited success, to grow a high-altitude garden in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I thank Liza Jane and her daughter, Adele Schott, for forcing me to slow down for a moment, take my mind off work and rushing to my next story stop, and rekindling my repressed dream of having chickens, supporting local 4-Hers at their livestock markets, and planting my own garden again in hope of sharing my bounty with my friends, neighbors and passersby. While I know it’ll be a while before my dream can come to fruition, I shared it with the ladies and my vision of greeting guests in a vintage polka-dot apron. They seemed to see it, too, encouraging me to just “Do it!”
Diversifying with the Times
Adele is featured in the June 2019 installment of Women of the West. A sixth-generation rancher in the Wallowa Valley, she and her husband, Mark, raise their own cattle herd, pasture yearling and ride outside horses. They’re also parents to their yearling son, Henry “Hank” Owen. Adele also helps her mother with the farmstands and on the family ranch, which raises grass-fed Corriente cattle they market to locals residents, groceries and restaurants. Her brother, James, also is involved through his outfitting business on the ranch.
Raising nutritious food, stewarding the land and preserving Western traditions drive the family in their individual and family operations, and gives them the opportunity to sustain the 6 Ranch into the future.