Over the last decade, knowing the source of our food and drink, and the makers who craft our brews (or the chefs who prepare our meals) has become increasingly important to travelers. Since Oregon’s Willamette Valley is central to growing and producing agricultural ingredients used by restaurateurs and other businesses and attractions, Albany Visitors Association partnered with Visit Corvallis and Travel Oregon to create the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail.
The Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail is a way for visitors to connect with the source of our agricultural bounty. Over 40 businesses are represented on the Trail, weaving their origin stories with personal experiences. You can spend several days building your itinerary as you pass through some of the most scenic countryside in Linn and Benton counties. Settle into a cabin at an actual working farm, help bottle feed baby lambs, pluck your own blueberries from the fields or indulge in a scrumptious farm-to-table dinner.
Here is a sampling of the Albany and Linn County Food Trail locations.
Midway Farms: As you approach the farm from Hwy. 20, you might see a milk cow grazing or seasonal flowers blooming near the little red barn that operates as a full-fledged cooperative farm market. What makes Midway unique is that it’s the only “all gluten-free farm” in the region. Buy eggs, baked goods, jams, pickles, meats, poultry and nursery plants straight from the purveyor. Midway operates children’s experience camps during the summer that can include learning how to harvest crops, gather eggs or milk a cow. 6980 NW Hwy 20, 541-740-6141.
Iron Water Ranch: A visit to this working fiber animal farm includes seasonal family-oriented events like bottle feeding baby lambs and educational workshops. The ranch produces beautifully dyed wool and fiber for craft, such as yarn for knitting and raw fiber for spinning or felting. The ranch is open daily by appointment. 35179 Riverside Drive SW, 541-979-5180.
Bryant Family Farm: No trip to Oregon would be complete without a visit to a blueberry farm, and we have the perfect family-friendly spot to experience blueberries fresh from the bush and straight into your mouth. You can pick them yourself or buy fresh plucked or frozen berries to take home. The farm is open Tuesday-Thursday peak season, June through August. There’s a picnic area and a kid’s play area on the farm. 35923 Bryant Dr. SW, 541-704-0677.
Sybaris Bistro: The kitchen at this warm eclectic restaurant is run by Matt Bennet, a James Beard House featured chef. The menu changes monthly, taking advantage of fresh seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms. Indulge in Oregon truffles, house-made elk sausages, rich chocolate flourless cake or other heavenly offerings. Stroll along First Ave. in the morning and you might catch a glimpse of Chef Matt outside smoking boar’s ribs or sausages on the Traeger. Reservations are highly recommended. 442 First Ave W. in downtown Albany, 541-928-8157.
Springhill Cellars Winery: A short 10-minute drive from downtown Albany, feast your eyes on the rural beauty surrounding Springhill’s perch atop a hill. The tasting room annex is part of a fully restored barn used for events including parties, weddings, Pilates classes, tours and Thanksgiving weekend’s annual Federweisser Festival. Picnic tables, fairy lights and a fire pit dot the grounds with views to the west and magnificent sunsets over the Coastal Mountain Range. The winery is family owned and operated, and uses the French method of barrel aging their Pinot varietals. Tastings can be scheduled by calling ahead or dropping in at the winery May through December, Friday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 2920 NW Scenic Drive, 541-928-1009.
Breweries, Distilleries and Spirits
Deluxe Brewing & Sinister Distilling: Grab a pint or a shot of their latest and enjoy a bite to eat from their food truck. This is a pet-friendly stop with outdoor/indoor informal seating. Take the tour and sample whiskeys, ales and lager. 635 NE Water Ave along the Willamette River, 541-928-7699.
Vivacity Fine Spirits and Calapooia Brewing: Order a fresh burger from the pub, take a tour and sample the vodka, gin, rum and brandy, plus a whole lot of craft brews on tap. The pub is family-friendly and there is an outdoor covered seating area as well. Listen to live music from their scheduled lineup. 140 Hill St NE, 541-928-1931.
Bakeries & Cafes
Natural Sprinkles Co. Bakery: If you’re craving some dessert, downtown Albany’s farm-to-table bakery has unique, homemade baked goods to satisfy your sweet tooth. Natural Sprinkles Co. has everything from scones and breads to cupcakes and seasonally prepared specials. The bakery offers a myriad of gluten-free and vegan options, creating baked goods for every type of diet. If you loved their homemade, all-natural cupcake sprinkles, or just want to try them, they are available for order off of their website. 202 2nd Ave SW, 541-704-0445.
Urban Ag Supply: This shop might look small from the street, but step inside and be prepared to wander through an amazing assortment of “rural meets urban” nirvana. Shop for locally crafted jewelry, garden ornaments and art, handmade soaps, lotions, balms, potted plants, ceramic planters, fertilizers and heirloom seeds. And that’s just a partial list of the products they keep in stock. There’s always something new from local artisans. Located just over the bridge at 456 Second Ave SW, 541-497-2988.
Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site: If there is one “must see and do” on our trail, it’s a trip to Thompson’s Mills. Located about 25 minutes from Albany in Shedd, Thompson’s is a unique survivor of times past, chronicling 160 years of Oregon rural life. It is the last water-powered mill in the state, and its turbines can be seen in action on free tours. A water right that predates statehood produces the water flow that still runs the milling machines for demonstrations today.
During fall harvest time, the mill often operates a cider press, where you can participate in the process and take home freshly pressed apple cider. The mill and grounds are open from 9:00 to 4:00 daily. Free guided tours are offered whenever the mill is open — just drop in and check with the rangers. Group tours (10 or more people) are available but please call 541-491-3611 in advance to ensure adequate staffing.
The mill and grounds are open every day of the year except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day. There are no fees to visit. The main tour of the mill is accessible by ramps. The mill address is 32655 Boston Mill Drive, Shedd, OR 97377.
Albany Farmers’ Market: The Albany Farmers’ Market is a great way to get a taste of all of the local shops, farms, and creators in Albany in one day. Open Saturday in April-November, the market is full of local products such as flowers, produce, meats, poultry, and organic goods. Catch some live music or check out an educational event while you stroll around the vendors’ tents and browse the local products. The market is located at the corner of Ellsworth Street SW and 4th Ave SW, 541-740-1542.
Additional Food Trail Locations
For more information on the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail and the full list of businesses included, request a free brochure from us at the AVA, 541-928-0911, or view here: Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail brochure (PDF). View detailed maps and itineraries at Visit Corvallis, our partner in the Food Trail Development.
The Best of Fresh and Local
Want to buy local? These two publications will shows you how! Take Root and Fresh & Local are great guides for sourcing local foods. Take Root has an associated cost, and you can subscribe to get it delivered twice a year. Visit takerootmagazine.com to subscribe or find out where to buy the magazine. Fresh & Local: Linn-Benton Guide to Sourcing Locally Grown Food is a free guide that provides information about farmers’ markets, farm stands, U-Picks, CSAs, and more. There is also a Guide to Sourcing Local Food in Lane County & Vicinity.
You can view these magazines online or pick up FREE hard copies here at the Albany Visitors Association, 110 3rd Ave SE, off of Lyon Street.
Take Root Online Edition
Fresh & Local: Linn-Benton Guide to Sourcing Locally Grown Food
More Places to Eat Farm Fresh
Not all area restaurants, bakeries, shops or coffee houses that use locally produced ingredients are listed in this section. Make sure to check out our restaurant directory or the free Albany Explorer App, available for download on Google Play or at the Apple App Store.
Images used in this post: Feature image at top of page, Lamb petting at Ironwater Ranch in Albany; Girls with garlic at Midway Farms in Albany; Sybaris Bistro truffle feast by AO Films in Albany; Deluxe and Sinister Brewing, in Albany; Honeybrine Market and Catering in Albany; Thompsons Mills State Heritage Site in Shedd; Take Root magazine cover by Debbie Duhn.
Let’s Head Outdoors for More Fun
In addition to the formal Food Trail Program, try a couple of these suggestions as the summer bounty increases.
Albany is home to a region full of vineyards and wine tasting opportunities. Enjoy lunch at Sweet Red Wine Bistro, where you can order from local and international wines and sample great food and cheeses. After lunch, head to Springhill Cellars Winery, where the estate vineyard and winery are on the slopes of Springhill, a gentle hill not far from the banks of the Willamette River.
Just to the north of Albany is Willamette Valley Vineyards, one of the oldest and most prestigious wineries in the mid-valley. Their tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. If you have more time to explore, try one of the Heart of Willamette Wineries–a collection of boutique wineries within 50 miles of Albany, producing memorable Oregon wines.
One of the fabulous things Oregon is known for is our fruitful bounty. And in July, fresh berries are one of the commodities that bring visitors near and far to Albany and Linn County u-pick farms, roadside stands and farmers’ markets. Several area farms grow blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and (known for its humble Willamette Valley origins) the Marionberry.
The following farms could be the start of a great weekend itinerary to satisfy the berry lover in your family:
Midway Farms One of Albany’s agricultural gems, Midway is a bucolic organic farm store (and working farm) on Highway 20. As you drive toward Corvallis, its red barn peeks out from between shade trees and a riot of multi-colored flowers. The store is usually bursting with an eclectic mix of seasonal harvests—from green onions and sweet greens to fall potatoes, tomatoes and garlic.
Midway’s crowning glory of summer are their sweet succulent organic strawberries, blueberries and other seasonal fruit. The farm posts frequently on Facebook, so if you’re planning on making fresh jam, follow their page to find out when there are special sales on bulk berries. Depending on the bounty, Kapple may run a spontaneous jam-making sale.
Midway Farms is located at 6980 NW US Hwy. 20, and the farm store is open daily, including weekends, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can also snag their produce, flowers, fruits, eggs and meats at the Albany or Corvallis Farmers’ Market.
Bryant Family Farm A short five-minute drive into the Albany countryside and you can load up on the biggest juiciest blueberries in Linn County. This family owned venture features 19 different varieties of “no spray” blueberries. You can opt to pick your own or purchase fresh or frozen berries for all your culinary creations.
The farm features a family picnic area and restrooms, so you can bring your favorite hamper packed with goodies and rest between picking. The Bryant family purchased the farm about five years ago, carrying on the u-pick tradition of the former owners, Peter and Millie Romans. The Romans planted their first bushes in 1967.
If you are in hurry and don’t have time to pick yourself, you can order free delivery service of frozen berries (within Albany), any size order over five pounds at $2.25 per pound. Frozen blueberries still pack a nutritional punch and are delicious in muffins, pancakes, ice cream, smoothies, and jams.
The season at the farm runs from mid-June to the second week in August, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., dependent on fruit ripening, weather patterns, and crop availability. It’s usually best to check with the farm at 541-704-0677. Bryant Family Farm is located at 35923 Bryant Drive SW, Albany, Oregon.
Catch Sight of Wildlife
The Willamette Valley is a wonderful place to explore with a pair of binoculars—or just a keen pair of eyes. The mid-valley’s mild climate makes it the winter home for certain bird species, and the rivers, lakes and forests are teeming with life as well. The Willamette Valley Birding Trail is your best resource for birding in the area. Download the Santiam Loop section for a guide to spotting burrowing owl, Oregon Vesper Sparrow and other species native to the mid-valley area. If you look carefully while walking in grassy meadows in Linn and Benton counties, you might spot a Fender’s Blue Butterfly (PDF), a rare butterfly native only to the Willamette Valley.
The following spots should help you create your own itinerary of nature while you’re here:
- Talking Water Gardens on the northeast side of Albany is an engineered wetlands that is home to turtles, frogs, mink, beaver, and dozens of species of birds. Trails and viewing platforms are plentiful.
- Finley Wildlife Refuge, southwest of Albany, has locations on both sides of the Willamette River, in Linn and Benton counties. It is home to one of the area’s largest herds of Roosevelt elk.
- E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area, west of Albany, is home to everything from beaver to bobcats, and hosts several threatened species, such as the Western pond turtle, sharp-tailed snake, and red-legged frog. The wildlife area also encompasses the remains of a former U.S. military base, and abandoned roads and old buildings are waiting to be explored at E.E. Wilson.