Two plastic chairs hastily set up in a food storage room behind the storefront of a family farm. It doesn’t seem like the place where, suddenly, inspiration will strike. And yet, it did. As a traveler, I have learned that these unexpected epiphanies are to be cherished.
“Nowadays, people are so focused on the consumer end of things. They forget to see the source.” Amber Fry is a second-generation farmer here in Medford, Oregon. Her parents, like so many others in Southern Oregon, made the move from California to seek a better, slower life for themselves and their children. A single acre of farmland has now turned into more than one hundred.
Amber and I sit at a simple folding table in a large storage room behind the storefront the farm operates. There are no frills here; there is not enough money in operating a small farm for such things. The store and commercial kitchen are new, products of Amber’s vision and dedication to making the farm once again a focal point for local consumers.
The Fry Family Farm store, filled with amazingness!
“Too many people walk into the big box stores and see mounds of produce, packages of grains, and everything else they can think of and never ask themselves where all of this bounty came from. Was it grown in a way that respects the earth? Was it created by hand or machine?” Amber is young. She and her husband spend their days here on the farm – many of them with their two young children by their sides – working to provide their customers with answers to those questions. They grow only organic produce, harvest only at the proper time, and offer a glimpse into what many of us have forgotten: that for all things, there is a source.
Her words echo with me, and it makes sense. My entire trip here in Medford, a city of about 100,000 people nestled in the wooded foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon, has been a glimpse to the source. From artisan food stores proudly listing the farms from which they source their ingredients and windows to watch those same ingredients being made into delicacies to the mountains themselves, a trip to Medford is a journey back to the source. The source of food, the source of nature, and for me, the source of self.
Rogue Creamery sits against a busy street in Central Point, just north of Medford, in what appears to largely be an industrial area. Stepping inside, though, I find myself transported to a dairy paradise, where curds and whey come together in perfect harmony. Rogue is best known for their award-winning blue cheeses, and they will let you sample them while you gaze into the cheese room, where the magic is created. On a recommendation, I order a grilled blue cheese, cut with their homemade white cheddar and a dash of honey. It is oozy, cheesy, salty, and delicious. I join a small migration of people taking my sandwich next door to Ledger David Cellars, where they pair my sandwich with their spectacular chenin blanc. Or try a glass of their rose; Oregon seems to be known for it! (You can also visit their vineyard, just outside of town.)
Grilled cheese and wine. Perfection!
In case that wasn’t enough, these two establishments share a parking lot with Lillie Belle, an artisan chocolate shop featuring local flavors in their responsibly-sourced chocolate confections. My favorite bite was the marionberry cordial truffle, bursting with a fruit unique to Oregon!
Doesn’t that look incredible?
This threesome of crowd pleasers (what I am terming the Medford trifecta) is emblematic of Medford’s dedication to truly knowing the source of food. Restaurants all over town will feature local farms, creating exciting menus of whatever is in season. Why force tomatoes when they aren’t at their best? Rather cook with sugar snaps at their peak. Each morsel I ate in Medford can be traced back to its source, to the hands that created it or the ground that birthed it.
With my arms spread wide, it feels like I’m flying. The wind makes my eyes tear, so I close them and listen to it blow past my face, cool, crisp, and fresh. My harness creaks a bit, and reminds me that I need to put my knees back up into a cannonball as this quarter-mile zip line comes to an end, or I might drag my feet, a dangerous proposition at fifty-plus miles per hour.
This is my fifth “zip” with Rogue Valley Zip Line Adventures, a series of progressively longer and steeper lines set through the hills and trees of the Siskiyou Mountains just outside Medford. The first was terrifying, and I worried my shaking legs would betray my fear to Logan and Kyle, our group guides. Once I realized my harness wouldn’t break, and that the ride was smooth, I was hooked.
Zip 5 disappears into the canopy.
There is something magical about being out in the mountains, flying over a canyon or down a hill. I feel like a child, giggling inwardly in pure, unadulterated bliss. Activities like this, or white water rafting, paragliding, or skiing can be incredible for those of us looking to go back to the source of ourselves. By being out in nature, body in tune with the world around us, adrenaline pumping and smile so wide it hurts, we reconnect with our true selves. We rediscover the love for life that sometimes can fall by the wayside during the everlasting day to day grind.
You just HAVE to come here and have this experience!
Medford is the perfect place to have this experience. Outdoor adventures are at the soul of the area. The Rogue River is known all over the world as one of the best for rafting and kayaking. The mountains offer hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Skiing Mt. Ashland is a winter treat. And, of course, zip lining.
I smile at Amber. “That’s it!” I exclaim. The rest of my Medford experiences come into focus as we talk about her farm. I spend so much of my time discovering a place that I lose sight of what I am truly chasing: a window into me, into what makes Jonathan tick. I yearn for this journey to the source of myself.
Here in Medford, in Southern Oregon, I reconnected with that part of me, and if you come here, you just might find that part of you!
Note: I want to thank Travel Medford for hosting me on this amazing trip, and for covering most of the expenses of the journey. No additional monetary compensation was offered, or sought. I was given complete artistic license to love or hate anything I tried, so as always, you can be certain that what you read is my honest opinion. If you want to discover your own source here in Medford, please reach out to me or to the wonderful people at Travel Medford.