A little white sign lets you know you’ve reached Pennington Farms as do gigantic wood planks announcing berries for sale. Your drive to get to this farm, sort of near Grant’s Pass, Oregon, winds through the Applegate Valley, a bit of heaven lined with hills and meadows and vineyards. Californians (and those who’ve enjoyed some other agricultural fruits of Oregon’s back woods) might wonder if you’ve inadvertently dropped into Mendocino’s wine country. Because much like Mendocino’s famous Apple Farm, you’ve come upon one of those beautifully rustic spots that signal shabby chic rustic beauty as if you’d fallen into a Pottery-Barn-meets-Martha-Stewart type of catalog.
We arrived on a sweltering summer day and sat for hours, inhaling berry turnovers, drinking coffee, enjoying one of those wonderful through-the-screen-door breezes. All morning the kitchen buzzed with ovens and bubbles with summer fruit reducing to flavors like Razzle Dazzle, Kotataberry, and of course Tayberry — all variations on berries raz or black.
What Sam and Cathy Pennington have created is not your typical farm store. No trite, rustic, destined-for-garage sale, made-in-China, adjective-laden tchochkes. Yes to cool items like plum- and cherry-wood jam spreaders. Sam’s Hawaiian upbringing and love of surfing add an unapologetic touch of duuuudeness through a local artist’s paintings of surfers framed in bamboo (kitchy chic). The barn has not one but two skateboard ramps for the kids and their friends. Can you just hear and feel and smell the late night loud music, beer, skateboarding, surrounded by blueberries and raspberries?
I’m friends with a bunch of fruit growers, and it’s always interesting to know how they got there. The couple didn’t come from farming. They met in college and made their way to this Oregon spot, planting 90 or so acres over the years. The family business they’ve created makes an excellent example for American agritourism and a well-rounded enterprise:
- They sell berries sold at local growers’ markets and to other stores and buyers
- They sell jam to local stores as well as online
- They produce cookies and fruit-filled pastries all year long along; (one of the daughters has a stint baking at San Francisco’s cult favorite Tartine Bakery).
- They rent a bed and breakfast where visitors awaken to farmstead jams, fresh fruit and baked goods…agritourism Oregon style.
Both for visitors and for the family, variety keeps things interesting. Variety also hedges. In case of slow downs (say it’s a smaller crop) the bed and breakfast unit can compensate. So can the bakery.
You’ll be hearing more about me and the Pennington’s as I write about connecting the dots on my Optimal Life Strategies blog. Why? Our relationship has some kind of cosmic purpose. This isn’t why I wrote about them. But it is why I visited them.