Free-range chicken at Tabula Rasa Farms. ##Photo by Maggie Kirkland
Heritage breed pigs at Tabula Rasa Farms outside Carlton. ##Photo by Maggie Kirkland
Tabula Rasa Farms owners Brenda Smola-Foti and Frank Foti. ##Photo by Maggie KIrkland
Tabula Rasa Farms outside Carlton. ##Photo provided
One of the Highland cattle herd at Tabula Rasa Farms. ##Photo provided
Grazing goats at Lonely Lane Farms in Mt. Angel.  ##Photo courtesy of Lonely Lane Farms
Farm-fresh eggs in every color available at Eola Crest Cattle in McMinnville. ##Photo courtesy of Eola Crest Cattle
Pasture-happy cow at Ropp Family Farm in Albany. ##Photo courtesy of Ropp Family Farm
Heritage pigs forage in oak meadows at Uproot Meats in Ashland. ##Photo courtesy of Uproots Meats

Meat Me in Wine Country

Oregon farmers commit to humane production, stewardship of the land and superior protein

By Annelise Kelly

Conscientious eaters throughout Oregon are changing their meat-eating habits by turning to local, grass-fed beef. Many of the environmental issues associated with beef production, such as water consumption, erosion, climate footprint and excess antibiotics are largely the result of industrial-scale production and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Our local options for pastured meat abound, thanks to the many small-scale producers dedicated to both environmental and animal welfare, raising small herds of cattle and other animals on pastures and farmlands. These landscapes are often interspersed with vineyards, orchards and small farms, all of which thrive in Oregon’s verdant climate.

Sustainable, Regenerative

Like many grass-fed beef producers, Brenda Smola-Foti describes herself as a pasture farmer, first and foremost, because the foundation of her enterprise is cultivating healthy, thriving grasslands year-round to nourish livestock. She founded Tabula Rasa Farms in 2015 outside Carlton, with a mission to “to serve the renewal and beautification of the planet through regenerative farming practices that allow plants, animals and people to thrive.”

Tabula Rasa Farms is a relative newcomer with big ambitions. Smola-Foti and her husband, Frank Foti, began with a series of water permaculture projects assisted by Zach Weiss of Elemental Ecosystems. Capturing rainwater naturally and distributing it throughout the farm with a system of terraces and small creeks, slowing runoff so the land absorbs more water, retains nutrients and resists erosion. Today, the farm rotates about 80 heritage cattle and 250 heritage hogs through their pastures, ensuring the land has time to recover after cattle graze, hogs root, chickens peck and all the creatures fertilize the soil naturally.

Collaborative Approach

Until now, the farm’s beef and pork have been available to the public via the Tabula Rasa Farms store, where customers can purchase a chef-curated box of selected cuts or order a whole or partial animal. However, thanks to a new partnership with Kookoolan Farms, Tabula Rasa now uses the Kookoolan Farms store as its primary retail outlet. The collaboration, called Source Farms, is designed to be “a collective of like-minded farmers, passionate about evolving our food system for the betterment of the world,” according to the website.

Introducing Humble Spirit

Another enterprise Tabula Rasa Farms launched in 2022 is The Ground, “an interconnected approach to hospitality that comes to life through agroecology, food and beverage, accommodations, wellness and programming.” This philosophical approach to hospitality will soon be expressed in Humble Spirit, a restaurant scheduled to open in downtown McMinnville this summer. In true locavore character, the restaurant will feature meat from Tabula Rasa Farms along with its own produce.

“We are just building a market garden right now, so it’s in its nascent stages,” says Andrew Mosblech, director of human hospitality. “This first year, it will supplement our menu, and in the future, it will play a much more central role. It’s been great watching the creative process between our gardener, Justin Peterson, and chef Brett Uniss, collaborating and honing in on species and strains that match our culinary goals with the local terroir. Our mission is not just to be a complete closed loop. We want to support other local suppliers to supplement our produce, proteins and so on.”

“We look at food as something that connects community and human nature and all nature,” explains Foti. “We’re in this great connected community of Yamhill County and McMinnville, and we want to contribute to it in a small way. Our mission at The Ground is to provide hospitality to all species — water and food are really central to it. Humble Spirit serves as an extension of The Ground’s mission to realize human potential in harmony with the planet, by nurturing the interconnectedness of nature, people and the community — in this case, through food and joy.”

Mosblech explains, “Humble Spirit will be a local neighborhood bistro. To us, bistro means casual, comfortable and versatile. We’ll have a burger, but we’ll also have some elevated-technique dishes that are hyper-seasonal and reflect the technique of our chef, and the quality of ingredients we find here in the Willamette Valley. It’s our first foray into direct hospitality in the classic sense. We’ll also be launching a catering operation in order to service harvest in particular, and to support programs and events regionally, locally and then on our own campus, out at the farm.”

Chef Uniss’ background includes stints at the French Laundry and Domaine Chandon, both in Napa, California, and most recently at Jackrabbit Restaurant at The Duniway Portland. “Chef Brett Uniss is an amazing guy,” raves Foti. “He’s awesome. He’s humble. He’s hilarious. And he cares a huge amount about delivering joy through food and, you know, he won’t say it because he’s not one of those pretentious chef people, but I just want to put in that he’s kind of the sh@t — I know you can’t actually put that in there, but if you could, it would be awesome.”

Integrated Hospitality

Tabula Rasa Farms offers one more element of hospitality: A vacation rental, right in the pastures. Originally built as Smola-Foti’s artist studio, “it’s a beautiful location and just a wonderful retreat,” says Mosblech. “Guests who stay there tend to participate in the farm experience directly. They almost unequivocally take a farm tour, and they’re often sitting out front looking at the pigs, the cows and all the other critters, and the lush land.”

To learn more about the dynamics of regenerative agriculture, sign up for a farm tour. “We’re showing people the diversity of our animals, our rotations, how we rest our pastures, and also how we work really hard to keep our soils hydrated through permaculture techniques,” says Smola-Foti. Tours are currently scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays, but Tabula Rasa Farms intends to expand the schedule as staffing increases. The on-site farm store is open during tours as well as by appointment.

With grand plans and lofty goals, Tabula Rasa Farms has taken a leadership role in Yamhill County agriculture in its relatively short existence. “Just seeing the plants, animals and people thrive, and seeing the joy on people’s faces when they come for a tour or when they taste our products,” keeps her motivated, says Smola-Foti, “along with knowing that we provide these healthy, nutrient-dense proteins that are the best that we can offer.”


Meat & Greet

Sustainable, small-scale meat producers punctuate Oregon wine country in every region. Meet a few of the many farmers dedicated to raising cattle, pork, lamb and poultry, humanely while conscientiously stewarding the earth. Check your local farmers markets for more options.


Ropp Family Farm, Albany

Jess and Greta Ropp specialize in raising and breeding shorthorn cattle on land their family has tended for eight generations. Combining old-fashioned animal husbandry with modern scientific strategies, the farm practices intensive grazing, nutrition and breeding. They recently upgraded the fat source in their feed to flax seed oil, increasing the omega-three content by more than 300%. Their grass-fed, grain-finished beef is processed locally in Mt. Angel and available by the quarter, half or whole.  

Red Bird Acres, Corvallis

Red Bird Acres is a pasture-based, open-sky, certified Animal Welfare Approved livestock ranch raising pastured heritage poultry, pork, lamb and eggs. Owners Robin and Laura Sage founded the operation in 2013 to benefit environmental and human welfare by helping transition the agricultural system to small, local economies prioritizing human and animal health. They utilize a rotational grazing system and high-welfare, low-stress husbandry practices. Find their products at the Corvallis, Hillsdale and Montavilla farmers markets, or schedule an appointment for on-site pickup. 

Knee Deep Cattle Co., Eugene

The lush green pastures that nourish the herd at Knee Deep Cattle Company have been in owner Mike Stevenson’s family since 1954. The free-range herds spend 16 to 18 months nourished on a variety of grasses, clover, mineral supplements and salt. They’re never confined to a feedlot or fed grain. Two weeks of dry aging ensures tender, flavorful beef. Knee Deep supplies meat markets, neighborhood groceries and restaurants, as well as offering beef to the public by the quarter, half or whole animal. 

Lonely Lane Farms, Mt. Angel

Third-generation farmers Mike and Patty Kloft run cattle on their family property and pastures leased from the historic Mount Angel Abbey. Lonely Lane Farms offers sustainably raised, grass-fed and -finished beef, lamb, goat and heritage pork, all hand-cut and processed at its own on-site USDA-inspected plant. Lonely Lane also makes charcuterie, zero-sugar ham and bacon, and other value-added meat treats. Practicing grazing and crop rotation, humane practices and small-scale production, the Klofts are dedicated to building a sustainable, healthy, robust local food system that serves their community. Find their meat at markets and co-ops in Portland, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis and Newport, as well as the Beaverton Farmers Market. 

Eola Crest Cattle, McMinnville

Find local Angus beef from Eola Crest Cattle at farmers markets in McMinnville, Hillsboro and Salem as well as select wine country restaurants. Owners Jennifer and Pete DeHaan have 45 years of family farming history in the Willamette Valley. Their herd is mostly grass-fed, supplemented with a small amount of house-blended grain to ensure fine marbling. All beef dry ages for a minimum of two weeks and up to four, maximizing its rich, robust flavor. Consumers can choose from more than 40 different cuts, along with jerky, pepperoni and eggs. 


Terra Farma, Corbett

As a vegetarian couple, Linda and Mike Guebert initially bought their Corbett property to grow their own food, but soon discovered their passion for sustainable animal husbandry. Today, they sell raw milk from cows and goats along with eggs and meat. Terra Farma is dedicated to rebuilding its soil fertility through multi-species rotational grazing, on-farm composting, minimal tillage and protection of sensitive riparian zones. Their products are primarily distributed in a CSA model with pickups in Corbett or Portland. Over the course of a year, subscribers receive meat from eight different species: grass-fed beef, pork, lamb, goat, chicken, guinea fowl, duck and rabbit. 


Crane Creek Ranch, Roseburg

Crane Creek Ranch in Roseburg specializes in naturally pasture-raised, grass-fed and grass-finished lamb on the flanks of the North Umpqa River. The mild Southern Oregon climate allows them to raise several breeds of sheep on pastures verdant with mixed grasses and legumes, with winter supplements of alfalfa and home-grown haylage. Border collies move the flock between pastures, rotating grazing so the pastures can regrow. Get a half or whole lamb cut to your specifications, or choose from several lamb packages. Crane Creek Ranch delivers in Roseburg and Eugene-Springfield areas. 

Uproot Meats, Ashland

Proclaiming “our meats are good medicine,” Uproot Meats promises clean, nutrient-dense protein. Owner Krista Vegter raises heritage pigs and poultry that forage on oak meadows, enjoying wholesome supplemental food such as seasonal local crops and alfalfa, peas, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seed, sesame seed, wheat, oats and quinoa. With a slower growth cycle than factory animals, they take longer to mature for harvest, allowing them to develop natural musculature, rich fat and excellent flavor. Buy Uproot products at farmers markets in Ashland and Medford, or subscribe to a monthly box of chicken, pork or mixed meats. 

Oregon Rogue Farms, Selma

Janice and Martin Egan launched Oregon Rogue Farms in 2018 in pursuit of their dream to steward land and livestock in a humane and sustainable micro-ranching enterprise. They offer free-range eggs, pork and grass-fed, grain-finished beef along with cow manure, pig manure and biochar soil amendment for your own sustainable garden. Find eggs and smaller quantities of their meats at the farmers markets in Cave Junction and Grants Pass, or order hogs by the half or whole, and beef by the quarter, half and whole. The enterprise is woman-owned, run by disabled persons, and uses no antibiotics, hormones or artificial ingredients. 


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