COMMERCE IN THE COUNTRY.
JUNCTION CITY - It started, as trails often do, at a conspicuous place: 12 men of advanced age, posing for photos in various states of undress.
Yes, it goes back to the men of the Long Tom Grange, and their now-famous calendar.
The grange had for years been a common denominator for residents of the Coast Range foothills west of Junction City. Its annual Daffodil Festival each spring is a social tradition, and the ages-old agricultural fraternity served as a connection point for rural families tucked deeply into the area's green folds.
With the calendar, those Grange-based affiliations took on another dimension - commerce.
"It made $630,000 (which was donated to local schools and charities)," says Danuta Pfeiffer, who spearheaded the calendar project. "It excited us, and in doing so created a community.
"The Long Tom Country Trail was an extension of that."
Pfeiffer and her husband, Robin, own Pfeiffer Vineyards, which is on their property between High Pass and Ferguson roads. Through an acquaintance forged during work on the calendar, they decided to promote their wine tastings in conjunction with a neighbor's art gallery.
The owners of Diamond Woods Golf Course, a few miles to the north on Territorial Highway, were next to get in on the collective marketing action.
"Then a light kind of went on," Danuta Pfeiffer says. "Before you knew it, we had 25 members of the Long Tom Country Trail."
The Country Trail concept - which Pfeiffer describes as being in part a "rural chamber of commerce" - aims to tie together clusters of outlying, tourism-friendly businesses and generate a critical mass of interest among would-be customers.
The Long Tom Country Trail includes 22 "trail destinations," along with five "contributing members." The destinations include four wineries, five art or photo galleries, a pair of alpaca farms and a wild mustang ranch.
Three other Country Trails have now joined the network - Fern Ridge in 2005, and both Alsea Valley and River Road this year - to bring overall membership in the program to more than 75.
"People want to connect with the local landscape and they want an authentic experience," says Lisa Lawton of the Convention & Visitors Association of Lane County Oregon. "This gives them a chance to see the countryside.
"It used to be a scenic drive (for tourists visiting rural Lane County)," Lawton says. "Now they can meet the farmers and pet the llamas. It's a wonderful opportunity not only to see the beautiful countryside we have here, but to experience it firsthand."
Pfeiffer says a primary goal of her rural tourism program is to get travelers to "come off the highway and see what the country has to offer."
And with the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene running through July 6, there's a rare tourism opportunity that she's determined to tap. Four Oregon Country Trail events are scheduled to coincide with the Trials - including a pair on July 1, an "off" day for Trials competition - and three of the Country Trail wineries are offering free shuttles today through July 2 from three Eugene locations (see www.oregoncountrytrails.com).
"As hard as the city has pulled together (to offer) events, we've done the same thing in the country," Pfeiffer says.
Country Trails memberships cost $100 per year for individual businesses, or $200 for collectives - such as the Alsea Valley Artisans, a member organization on the Alsea Valley Country Trail. All of the membership dues - approximately $7,500 per year - along with a handful of small-potatoes grants are spent on brochures and advertising for the four member groups.
This is a no-profit organization, as opposed to a nonprofit.
"No, we can't afford (to register as a nonprofit corporation)," Pfeiffer says. "It's absolutely profitless, but for these people it absolutely makes a difference."
Take Glenna Barker, for instance.
She began painting in 1994, taking courses at Lane Community College along with "a lot of private lessons." She built a small studio and kept working on her oil paintings.
Then she joined the Long Tom Country Trail a few years back, and has since expanded her studio to include a small gallery to display not only her art but a high-end line of wind chimes. And the kind of thing that happened earlier this week has become common: a phone call, a follow-up stop by a Country Trail visitor and the sale of a painting.
"Being on the route, for me, has been very beneficial,' says Barker, whose business is called the Stillridge Studio and Art Gallery.
Across the way - on Templeton Road, to the south - Avery Anderson has taken her 30-year passion for creating glass art to a new level in a converted, four-stall horse barn that is now an impressively equipped studio and gallery. Her Anderson Glass Art and Wolf Shadow Gallery features everything from one-of-a-kind and limited edition kiln-formed objects of glass art to what she calls "horse bling" - glass beads and pendants for horses' manes and tack.
Her animal-inspired glass art - also available at galleries in nearby Harrisburg as well as in Santa Fe, N.M., and on the Hawaiian island of Maui - is on display along with other works in media ranging from pottery to alpaca rugs.
Anderson also has been persuaded by Pfeiffer to offer a newly finished, self-contained apartment upstairs from the studio as a bed-and-breakfast unit to complement that of her down-the-road neighbor - Diane Hunter, proprietor of the Dancing Rain Guest House.
The two-bedroom guest house - originally built as a duplex unit adjoining Hunter's home - has a private deck with a hot tub, along with a view of the picturesque pond that separates the Dancing Rain property from that of Rainsong Vineyard, which is yet another Long Tom Country Trail member.
Hunter's mother occupied the guest house until she passed away, and the rising level of interest created by the Country Trail movement inspired Hunter to share her homestead and alpaca farm by offering the quarters for rent.
"(The Country Trails) gave us more energy to move this thing forward," says Hunter, who now plans to add a second rental unit by erecting a yurt on a clearing near the pond.
"It's part of that (concept of) having something you love give back to you," she says.
It also ties into the widely applied notion that there's strength in numbers, according to CEO Todd Davidson of Travel Oregon, the statewide tourism agency.
Travel Oregon had what Davidson describes as an "exploratory meeting" last week with Pfeiffer and representatives of various state agencies that have tourism promotion programs. Davidson says 70 percent of the businesses that make up Oregon's tourism industry are sole proprietorships - individual- or family-owned businesses - that may very well benefit from the consolidated approach of Country Trails.
"What it really does is that it gets to the crux of the matter that we're stronger together than we are alone," Davidson says.
"These smaller, independent businesses are the heart and soul of the Oregon tourism business," he says. "By bringing people together who may have limited resources for marketing, you may have the resources to do something magical."
At her winery nestled into the hills west of Junction City, Pfeiffer can see the fruits of her labors along routes in every direction. Signs indicating Oregon Country Trails are posted at key intersections throughout the area, and individual signs mark the driveways of most Country Trail members.
"Before this, all you'd find out here was potholes, blue tarps and blackberries," Pfeiffer says. "The whole point of the Oregon Country Trails is rural sustainability."
She looks at businesses such as her own winery and the nearby Diamond Woods Golf Course as key attractions for tourists considering a trip to the countryside. But the smaller operations together have an even more important role of providing an overall context of rural commerce.
"The big businesses, they are the anchors on the tent," Pfeiffer says. "But what's inside the tent is all these little mom-and-pops."
OREGON COUNTRY TRAIL SPECIAL EVENTS scheduled THROUGH JULY 5
Alsea Valley Country Trail:
Summer Bounty of Arts and Crafts, Today, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Alsea Public Library.
Long Tom Country Trail:
Fiber Artists and Country Crafters Farm Day, July 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., April's Acres Alpacas, 25372 Jaeg Road, Junction City.
Demonstration Art in the Garden, July 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Stillridge Art Gallery, 94724 Turnbow Lane, Junction City.
Third Annual Blueberry Festival, July 5, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Steely Acres, 96378 Adams Lane, Junction City.
Long Tom Country Trail Destinations
A Taste... Gourmet Market, Junction City
Anderson Glass Art, 92791 Templeton Road, Cheshire
April's Acres Alpacas, 25372 Jaeg Road, Junction City
Benton-Lane Winery, 23924 Territorial Road, Monroe
Bush's Fern View Farms, 90536 Territorial Road, Junction City
Dancing Rain Guest House, 93050 Toliver Lane, Cheshire
Decker Nursery & Decker's Red Eagle Appaloosas, Alvadore
Diamond Woods Golf Course, Monroe
High Pass Winery, 24757 Lavell Road, Junction City
Holly Creek Farm and Gallery, Junction City
Jamie Hooper Photography, Junction City
Kittyhawk Kigers, Junction City
Lingo's Antiques, 27579 High Pass Road, Junction City
Pacific Meadows Alpacas, 2220 Wisconsin St., Eugene
Pfeiffer Vineyards, 25040 Jaeg Road, Junction City
RainSong Vineyard, 92989 Templeton Road, Cheshire
Ridge Views Farm, Junction City
Steely Acres, 96378 Adams Lane, Junction City
long tom destinations continued
Stillridge Studio and Art Gallery, 94724 Turnbow Lane, Junction City
Sue Huckabey's Clay Creations, Springfield
Sunshine Limo Service, Eugene
White Oak Farm, 25610 Lawrence Road, Junction City
Contributing Members of Long Tom Trail:
Campbell House - A City Inn, Eugene
Dancing Rain Alpacas, Cheshire
Northwest Farm Credit Service, Harrisburg
Nuthatch Knoll, Junction City
Penumbra Glass, Junction City
For a complete list of destinations on each of the trails and maps go to www.alseavalleycountrytrail.com
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|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jun 29, 2008|
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