Food provides a tangible and tasty connection to local culture with its regional agriculture, ethnic heritage and current community values. The slow food movement, the 100-mile lifestyle, "farm-to-table," and a growing appreciation for regional specialities supports culinary tourism as a travel centerpiece.
In the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region the locavore culture is highly developed with an emphasis on sustainable production.
Regional restaurants and food carts source their ingredients locally, showcasing the Willamette Valley's local abundance. Cooking styles vary, incorporating some Asian and European preparations but with an overall emphasis on simple, uncomplicated presentations- allowing the flavors of sustainable and organic foods to shine.
Oregon is best known for hazelnuts, wild berries, pears, truffles and other wild mushrooms, wine grapes, hops, wild salmon, rainbow trout, oysters, clams and Dungeness crab. Organic meats, eggs and dairy products - including locally-produced cheese, yogurt - honey, chocolate, bagels, bread, cakes and coffee round out a plethora of roadside farm stands and farmers' markets bursting with seasonal produce. Visit one of many natural food stores, fish or meat markets in the region.
Wineries & Microbreweries
The South Willamette Valley has a similar climate and is along the same latitude as Burgundy, France. With prime terrain for cultivating pinot noir, Oregon wineries have gained international recognition for their achievements. Visit an in-town wine bar or attend a wine tasting, tour or wine clinic with the winemaker at a valley vineyard. Most wineries are within 30 minutes of Eugene and offer wine tasting.
Oregon beer is recognized for its quality hand-crafted brews, local hops and skilled brewmasters. With brew pubs in the Cascades, on the Oregon Coast, and with over half a dozen acclaimed micro-breweries around Eugene-Springfield; a brewery tour is a must-do activity. Since each brewery has its own distinctive personality, make sure to see them all!
During the summer and fall, picking your own fruits and vegetables is a great way to connect with the local food supply. Shop at roadside farm stands or "u-pick" strawberries, peaches, cherries, plums, berries, tomatoes, pears, apples, corn, nuts, squash, pumpkins and flowers. For the holidays, take a tractor or hayride to a pumpkin patch or to cut your own Christmas tree.
While cows, goats, sheep, pigs, horses and chickens are common on area farms, did you know the region supports a half dozen alpaca ranches? Alpacas are valued for their woolly fur. Learn more about this gentle animal through the Alpaca Breeders Connection. Throughout the year participating farms host events and tours showcasing the alpaca.
Summer's annual Bite of Eugene showcases area restaurants and an "Iron Chef" cook-off. Florence hosts Chowder, Blues & Brews in Historic Old Town with chowder judging. Winter's annual Oregon Truffle Festival (the first of its kind in North America) celebrates Oregon's wild truffles with fine cuisine and educational forums. Oakridge participates with their mountainous Mushroom Foray.
Willamette Farm & Food Coalition is a non-profit that promotes the sustainable food system in the Willamette Valley. They support the purchase of locally produced food to strengthen the local farming economy and increase community awareness about the environmental, economic and social impacts of food choices.
FOOD for Lane County repackages rescued food for distribution to food pantries and meal sites, contributing thousands of pounds of food to the emergency food system and preventing food from entering landfills. Their Youth Farm Program combines hunger relief with youth services and education. The three-acre farm provides paying work, job training and education to at-risk teenagers.
The Willamette Valley proudly participates with other Oregon regions in the internationally-recognized Oregon Bounty statewide celebration of the harvest during the months of October and November.