While meandering past the farm stands at today's Rogue Valley Growers Market, let your nose follow the succulent scent of sausage fresh off the barbecue and it will lead you to Suzanne Willow and Lanita Witt.
Here, the women of Willow-Witt Ranch have their grill filled with slices of juicy goat and pork. Bockworst, bratworst and British-style bangers, among other pork varieties, are packed for sale at $11.50 for 12 ounces.
The flavors of the sausages are a result of the way the livestock is nurtured on Willow-Witt's beautiful, high-mountain ranch in Ashland. Berkshire pigs graze in pastures and are given certified organic grains and goat's milk.
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"We try to raise them in an environment that encourages them to express their full potential," says Willow. "They are extremely happy animals."
Willow-Witt also offers a twist on a typical CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, where farmers deliver a supply of seasonal produce to members. Willow-Witt's Goat Milk Herdshare members buy into a herd of alpine goats for $30 and a monthly fee of $28.50, and receive an average half gallon of raw goat milk per week.
Never heard of a goat-milk herdshare? Well, how about a meat CSA? The ranch owners offer monthly, 5-pound deliveries of customized combinations of pork, chevon, chicken or eggs from December through May. Prices for a mix of pork and chevon (goat meat) are $300 for six months; add chicken for $120.
Another unique offering is the 440-acre ranch's nationally recognized farm stay, part of the emerging market of agro-tourism, where visitors can experience the day-to-day rhythms of ranch life. Rates start at $135 a night for two.
"There are so many people who haven't pulled a vegetable from the ground," says Willow. She thinks that witnessing the direct line from the soil to the dinner table is something that "opens more people's eyes than any other experience on the farm."
In the summer, they will offer a farm share, as well as tours of the ranch and barns.
Though their ranch is now covered in a layer of snow, it still displays the 27 years of care, dedication and environmental stewardship that Willow, Witt and their team have practiced.
"People find a place and grow with us," says Willow, "and, of course, help us grow, too."
If you can't make it every week to the growers market, email firstname.lastname@example.org to join the company's email list, advises Willow, "so we can update you on farm events."
Find it: Willow-Witt Ranch's meat is available through the CSA or on the online farmer's market, www.localfoodmarketplace.com/roguevalley/.
It is also served at New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro in Talent and Ashland restaurants Amuse, Coquina, Smithfields and Standing Stone Brewery. Mix Sweet Shop on the Ashland Plaza buys fresh eggs from the ranch to use in its pastries.
For more information, visit the ranch's booth at the Tuesday growers markets or its Farm Store, 658 Shale City Road, Ashland, call 541-890-1998 or visit www.willowwittranch.com.