Slow Food and Slow Fun on the South Clackamas Farm Loop

By Annelise Kelly

The rich farmland of the Willamette Valley has nourished people for centuries. At least a dozen tribes gathered camas bulbs, wapato, acorns, and more; hunted deer in the meadows; and caught steelhead in the rivers. In the mid-1800s, wagon trains of settlers reached this fertile region, where they displaced the indigenous people as they established small homesteads and towns. The Willamette Valley was soon a patchwork of fields and orchards that remains vibrant today where it hasn’t been eclipsed by the sprawl of cities.

Only a short drive from any Willamette Valley city, you’ll find plenty of small-town flavor and small-scale agriculture. Just south of Portland, Clackamas County hosts some of the Willamette Valley’s most varied and verdant countryside, offering everything from alpacas to wine. Roads thread through fields and forests, weaving together mid-sized rural communities such as Canby and Molalla with small towns like Monitor and Beaver Creek.

The South Clackamas Farm Loop highlights 20 destinations in the area, providing a welcome organizing principle to aimless wandering and lazy Sunday drives. Cruise roads that crest hills and curve through vales inviting you to slow down, explore the back roads, and savor a peek into Oregon’s rural heritage.

TMK Creamery offers plenty of cheesy goodness along the South Clackamas Farm Loop just south of Canby. Photo courtesy of mthoodterritory.com.

Whatever your passion — fresh produce, local wines, meeting animals, regional history — the South Clackamas Farm Loop has a little of everything. Depending on your touring style and the spots you visit, you might delve into a couple destinations in a day or you might see a dozen. Some stops are quick, while others tempt you to linger over walks, U-picks, food or beverages.

Like any farm loop, it’s governed by the seasons. A number of locations draw visitors for scheduled events, such as the Molalla Farmers Market, the Canby Fairgrounds, Swan Island Dahlias and Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm.

Most stops are closed at least a day or two per week, and a few require an advance appointment, so plan your itinerary and check with each location for opening hours and current offerings. Pack a cooler for the irresistible cornucopia of local produce, baked goods, meat and dairy. Please honor the COVID-19 precautions observed by each location.

If you’re approaching from Portland or Interstate 5, start your trip on the Canby Ferry. It’s just $5 and a few minutes to ride across the Willamette River, and it’s a perfect way to start slowing down for your journey by reminding you how Oregon farmers once relied on ferries to get their products to the people. The ferry crosses back and forth on demand.

South Clackamas Farm Loop Produce to Pack Home

Fill your cooler at Morning Shade Farm by picking your own apples, plums, blackberries, raspberries and more when in season. There’s also a stand selling fruits and vegetables along with raw honey, frozen fruit and popsicles. Stop by MoonRidge Farms, where blueberries, lavender, and yacon (a South American super food tuber) are grown organically; you can stay overnight in the MoonRidge farm stay, which sleeps six. When you’re ready for lunch, pop into the combo farm store and bakery at Fir Point Farms for sandwiches, paninis, salads, and wraps, including gluten-free options.

Wine Tasting Along the South Clackamas Farm Loop

Villa Catalana Cellars boasts a scenic tasting room just outside Canby at the northern edge of the Willamette Valley. Photo courtesy of mthoodterritory.com.

If it’s the fruit of the vine you crave, wineries will provide. Allow ample time to wander the property at Villa Catalana Cellars, where you’ll wonder if you took a wrong turn and ended up at a romantic Mediterranean estate. Meander winding paths while passing statues serenely reflected in pools and lush gardens bursting with unusual plants.

Other tasting rooms along the farm loop include Christopher Bridge Wines, Forest Edge Vineyard, and King’s Raven Winery, where the grapes are stomped by foot.

Plants and Flowers Along the South Clackamas Farm Loop

Every summer, the blooms at Swan Island Dahlias captivate visitors from throughout the region. Photo courtesy of mthoodterritory.com.

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm and Vineyard has a big annual Tulip Fest in the spring, and Swan Island Dahlias celebrates their bloom with a Dahlia Festival in August and September. K’s Nursery offers annuals, perennials, herbs, baskets and more in their garden center, along with a swing set to keep the kids entertained while mom and dad shop. Stretch your legs on five miles of trails at Hopkins Demonstration Forest and admire the 65-foot tall Clatskanie Mountain Fire Tower, relocated to this non-profit educational tree farm.

Rounding up the Rest of the South Clackamas Farm Loop

Alpacas at Marquam Hill Ranch are a popular attraction along the South Clackamas Farm Loop. Photo courtesy of mthoodterritory.com.

Grass-fed lamb is the house specialty at SuDan Farm, with a huge menu of cuts ranging from sausage to sweetbreads to chops. You’ll also find poultry, eggs and wool products. Don’t miss Alpacas at Marquam Hill Ranch, where you can feed and pet the moon-eyed, mop-topped animals, then browse the beautiful alpaca wool garments, socks and slippers at their shop. Check for seasonal events like alpaca yoga.

Take your pick of sweet treats among the truffles and toffee at Puddin’ River Chocolates, or stop at TMK Creamery, where you can lick a cone of soft-serve ice cream while petting the cow who provided the milk. TMK also makes Cowcohol, single-source vodka distilled from the leftover whey generated when they make cheese. Grab a meal or some snacks at Clarkes General Store & Eatery, established in 1925, and look at their old regional photos in the bar.

Seasonal and Event-Driven Stops on the South Clackamas Farm Loop

On Thursdays afternoons between late May and September, visit the Molalla Farmers Market for produce, flowers and prepared foods. Check the schedule of the Clackamas County Fairgrounds, which hosts year-round events, including the County Fair, a Halloween Scare Fair, the Oregon Bigfoot Festival, holiday fairs and more.

Explore the Possibilities