Living here in the densely populated land of plenty that is Oregon's Willamette Valley, it's easy to forget that there's another Oregon just a few hours away on the other side of the Cascade Range. It's a much drier place, a high desert populated by sagebrush, pine trees and rolling hills where cattle outnumber people. Other mountain ranges, including the Blue Mountains and the Wallowas, are dotted with deep lakes, and the deer, elk and other wildlife that live there have adapted to the extremes of temperature that can go from well below freezing in winter to above 100 degrees in summer.
The original building that became the Lostine Tavern.
There are no New Seasons or Whole Foods stores stocked with aisles of fresh produce and sustainably harvested West Coast albacore. In fact, many of the small towns in the region are designated by the USDA as "food deserts"—rural towns with limited access to fresh foods. That's one reason why Joseph resident and writer Lynne Curry and her business partner, rancher Peter Ferré, have decided to rebuild a landmark tavern in the tiny town of Lostine, 10 miles northwest of Enterprise.
Beginning the renovation.
The Lostine Tavern, built in 1902 from locally quarried Bowlby stone, was originally a pharmacy and doctor's office, then became a tavern in the 1940s until it closed in January, 2013. Curry and Ferré, both active in efforts to revive a strong local food system, hope to build their menu around produce and meats from area farms and ranches. Which includes bringing back community favorites like taco nights and pie socials, as well as cooking classes and a small market and deli that they hope will nurture the beginnings of a rural food economy.
Detail of original stone walls, wood ceiling. Cool!
Curry admits it's a bit of a stretch to build a successful farm-to-table restaurant considering the size of the population in the area, but is encouraged by the enthusiastic response they've received from local residents. And because of a tragic fire in early February that burned the South Fork Grange and Norton Welding—two adjoining historic structures that formed the core of the small downtown—to the ground, the rebuilding of the tavern has become even more critical to the community.
Please consider donating whatever you can to their campaign, which ends on April 14, but also plan to visit after the tavern opens in mid-May…this stunningly beautiful area is going to get even more amazing.