Your Guide to Growing Seasons in the Willamette Valley

By Matt Wastradowski

Nowhere else in the world do crops grow quite like they do in the Willamette Valley. Farmers have tilled our volcanic soils for generations and all that rainfall we’re famous for nourishes our crops all year long.

Each year, those farmers and vintners produce more than 170 crops, plants, and livestock—which show up in wine glasses, bouquets, award-winning restaurants, and more.

With so much to experience, we want to create a seasonal guide to some of the Willamette Valley’s best-loved crops, when they’re in season, and where you can enjoy the bounty of the region all year long.

What Should You Know Before Visiting Willamette Valley Farms?

Before heading out, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind for the best possible experience:

  • Growing seasons aren’t exact. A hot summer, late winter storm, or bone-dry spring can all impact when crops are available; if visiting early or late in a crop’s growing season, check with your farm’s official website or social media channels to see whether they’re open—and what’s available.
  • Time your visit to the heart of growing season—generally April-Oct. Many farms and markets close for the winter.
  • Pets are allowed on some farms, but are generally discouraged when farm animals are present. Check with your preferred destinations to see whether dogs are allowed before setting out.
  • Keep in mind that you are visiting working farms—so please refrain from walking into buildings and onto crops, and be sure to obey posted signs at all times.

What’s In-Season Each Spring at Willamette Valley Farms?

The year’s first crops appear in March and April, heralding the arrival of spring and another growing season. Here’s some of what you’ll find at farms around the Willamette Valley each spring.

flowers

Is there anything more representative of spring than the blooming of the year’s first flowers? We think not—and if you agree, you’ll find plenty of nurseries and farms to peruse and purchase hanging baskets (in-season March-July), peonies (March-July), tulips (April-May), colorful irises (April-July), and all manner of herbs (April-Sept.). to several fields overflowing with colorful blooms; the celebrated farm is part of the wider South Clackamas Farm Loop. For fresh herbs, stop by The Thyme Garden (southwest of Philomath, along the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail); the garden boasts one of the largest specialty herb collections in the Pacific Northwest—where more than 250 raised beds are stocked with more than 650 varieties.

What’s In-Season Each Summer at Willamette Valley Farms?

Not every crop is harvested in summer—but it sure feels like it. The busy season at Willamette Valley farms generally stretches between May and September, when the highest number of items are produced. Here are just a few of the many, many crops available at Willamette Valley farms in summer:

hops

Right around Labor Day, harvesters get to work plucking hops from bines that can reach 20 feet or taller—all of which feeds our acclaimed craft beer scene. Some hops are tossed into the mix right away to create fresh-hop beers (which put the hop’s flavor profile front and center and are usually available Sept.-early November), while others are pelletized and processed for use in beers over the coming months.

lavender

Starting in late June and continuing through July, fragrant stalks of purple lavender cover farms around the northern Willamette Valley—especially along the Newberg Lavender Trail. Visitors can photograph and pick bunches of lavender, as well as try lavender-infused food items and purchase products made with the herb. Wayward Winds Lavender, part of the Yamhill Farm Loop, hosts more than 100 varieties of the plant and dishes all manner of lavender-infused food and refreshments each summer. Further south, the selection at Barn Owl Nursery (along the Farmlandia Farm Loop) is always worth checking out—and McKenzie River Lavender (part of the South Willamette Valley Food Trail) hosts a festival each July along the banks of its namesake river.

berries

Every summer, the Willamette Valley produces millions of pounds of succulent berries; the most popular varieties include strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blueberries, blackberries, and marionberries (first cultivated in the Willamette Valley and now a regionally iconic item). Fresh strawberries first appear at markets and farm stands in May, with the rest of the crops following in June and lasting through the end of summer. If you’re looking to pick your own, grab raspberries and blueberries at Perryhill Farm along the Great Oaks Food Trail, organic blueberries at Moon Ridge Farms along the South Clackamas Farm Loop, and marionberries at Saginaw Vineyard along the South Willamette Valley Food Trail.

dahlias

Dazzling dahlias bloom between late July and September, adding a pop of color to the Willamette Valley. For fresh-cut flowers, stop by Swan Island Dahlias along the South Clackamas Farm Loop; the third-generation farm is the nation’s largest dahlia producer, offering more than 370 varieties each year.

What’s In-Season Each Fall at Willamette Valley Farms?

Autumn feels like a long, deep breath around the Willamette Valley. Most of the season’s crops have been harvested by this point, but you’ll still find roadside stands, farms, and markets selling whatever’s fresh at that point. Crowds begin to taper off as kids return to school—except on weekends, when families flock to pumpkin patches and harvest festivals at farms throughout the region. Here’s a look at what you’ll find in fall throughout the Willamette Valley:

apples

Apples might start growing as early as June—but they have their moment every autumn. Bauman’s Farm & Garden, for instance, sits along the Marion Farm Loop and hosts an annual harvest festival where apple cider doughnuts, caramel apples, apple slushie drinks, and apple cider (both hard and non-alcoholic) are served in abundance.

hazelnuts

For more than 100 years, hazelnuts have been an integral part of the Willamette Valley; today, roughly 99% of all hazelnuts produced in the United States are grown in the Willamette Valley. To get a taste of the regional delicacy, stop by Thistledown Farm (along the South Willamette Valley Food Trail), which sources its crops from the appropriately named Hazelnut Hill (just next door) and sells the nuts—alongside beef, baked goods, and other locally grown produce between late spring and just after Halloween.

pumpkins

Picking your way through Willamette Valley pumpkin patches is a great way to spend a crisp autumn afternoon when the gourds ripen in September and October. Every fall, E.Z. Orchards Farm Market transforms its store (which sells house-made wine, fresh doughnuts, and seasonal produce) into the hub of a month-long festival that hosts a massive pumpkin patch; other HarvestFest activities include a corn maze, hay rides, encounters with farm animals, seasonal fare, and kid-friendly games. You’ll find E.Z. Orchards and other great pumpkin patches along the Marion Farm Loop.

wine harvest

The Willamette Valley is home to nearly 600 wineries, and vintners throughout the region work all year long to ensure a fruitful grape harvest, which takes place in September and October. While those wine grapes won’t show up in glasses for several months or even years, get a taste of what’s to come at family-owned wineries along the Yamhill Farm Loop—including Abbey Road Farm, Durant at Red Ridge Farms, and the sustainability-minded Soter Vineyards. To the south, the Great Oaks Food Trail hosts nearly a dozen wineries and wine bars pouring the best of the region—such as Eola Hills Wine Cellars and the family-owned Illahe Vineyards in Dallas.

What’s In-Season Each Winter at Willamette Valley Farms?

Winter is undeniably the quietest season around the Willamette Valley. By winter, most farmers have harvested their last crops, closed their roadside stands, and started looking to spring. That said, the slow season rewards visitors with a more intimate experience away from summertime crowds. Here’s a look at what’s growing and available in winter.

christmas trees

This should come as no surprise: Christmas tree farms do their biggest business between mid-November and mid-December, with families picking the perfect tree all over the Willamette Valley. Frog Pond Farm (part of the Farmlandia Farm Loop) sells live trees, wreaths, and garlands every holiday season.

Magnolia Tea Room Treats

year-round products

Winter makes a great time to sample products that are available all year long—like honey. Flying Bee Ranch, just east of Salem along the Marion Farm Loop, offers free honey tastings accompanied by education on bees, beekeeping, honey extraction, and related topics; in all, Flying Bee Ranch produces more than 20 honey varieties (including blackberry honey and pumpkin honey). Other year-round products to look for in winter include locally sourced beef, lamb, and eggs.