Established in 1862, Leaping Lamb Farm in Alsea, Ore., was a working farm the very beginning. The owners of the original 90-acre property (then called Honey Grove Farm—after the name of the creek that runs the length of the land) raised everything from timber to fruit to meat, and today, Scottie Jones and her family—the farm’s third owners—continue the working farm tradition.
The Jones purchased 64 acres of the original 90, and renamed the farm after watching their lambs playing in the land’s 100-year-old orchard. But despite the name change, the essence of the farm’s history is still alive. On the property sits a lovely timber-frame barn built in 1932 and a farmhouse that dates back to 1895. You’ll see grapevines put in by the first owners—nearly as old as the orchard—a large market garden, and 20 acres of cross-fenced pasture. Water for the house and livestock derives from a spring flowing out of the mountainside. Garden beds that the second owners planted with berry bushes, kiwi, figs, quince, Italian plums, and many perennials and shrubs in still encircle the house.
But while the former owners raised sheep, cows, pigs, geese and chickens, the Jones have pulled back on the livestock front and focus on raising sheep for the meat market. They keep Katahdins and Katahdin-Dorper crosses, hair sheep that are friendly, resistant to parasites and great mothers. They are much more docile than many of the wool breeds, Jones says, so they’re easier to handle and not as likely to trample you—plus you don’t have to shear them! They were bred for lean meat without a lot of extra fat and the flavor is mild and very tasty.
In 2006, the Jones started a farm stay to provide additional income to cover the costs of farm upkeep, machinery and labor.
“It became apparent to us, after several years on the farm, that our livestock and hay sales were not going to cover all of our expenses,” Jones says. “And even though my husband had a full-time job off the farm, we didn’t feel we should be using our retirement to be farmers!”
They built a cottage about 500 feet from the farmhouse for guests to stay in, and added three horses, a donkey, two ducks, a turkey and a peacock to their farm-animal menagerie for guest entertainment and education. They have visitors from across the country, but are particularly a destination for folks on the West Coast and in Portland, Ore.
“This coming year, we will be working to add more lodging to our farm stay component because many guests have mentioned how much fun it would be if they could bring friends and family, too,” she says.
The family is also in the process of building a workshop with hot running water and an outdoor shower, a pole barn with a cement floor for their tractor, and a loafing shed to increase cover for the sheep. The farm’s one worker has proven to be a true artisan by creating fairy houses in the surrounding rainforest woods, much to the delight of kids and parents alike when they encounter them.
“Hosting a farm stay is not hard as long as you like people and are passionate enough about your farming to share a bit of what you do,” Jones says. “You may or may not get some additional help, but just seeing the wide eyes of the kids (and their parents too) the first time they collect the eggs or brush the donkey is well worth the effort of opening up your property. We need to be encouraging younger generations to consider farming; encouraging families to disconnect from technology and connect with nature (if only for a weekend); and combat the growing rural-urban divide that has beset our country since the middle of the last century.”
When You Visit
Leaping Lamb Farm is in the middle of the Coast Range, which means on a clear day, you can see west all the way to the coast and east all the way to the Cascade Mountains. The wildflowers are incredible in spring, and the mountain is known to wild truffle hunters near and far.
Just outside of Alsea, you’ll find the Hayden Covered Bridge, one of three in the county. This is also the spot of a great swimming hole on the Alsea River.
Nine miles from downtown is Alsea Falls, a county park with loads of hiking and biking trails and very few people. Then 40 miles west from Alsea is the Pacific Ocean; the highway drops you right into Alsea Bay, home to Dungeness crab. Highway 34 follows the Alsea River in a curvy and beautiful drive. The river’s larger claim to fame is that it has some of the best salmon and steelhead fishing in the Northwest.
Corvallis, 25 miles east of Alsea, is home to Oregon State University and some of the best Pinot vineyards around.