Farmstay U.S. Blog

Created for and by travelers and the farmers, these posts will cover a variety of topics related to farm stays in the U.S.

Draper Girls Country Farm: Stay and pick your own fruit at the base of Mt. Hood

Draper Girls Country Farm, set at the base of Oregon's majestic Mt. Hood about an hour from Portland, is a 3rd generation fruit farm with a U-pick orchard, a farm stand, a small petting zoo, and a four-bedroom country cottage guesthouse.

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Roman Braun founded the family farm in 1962. Now his daughter Theresa and her three daughters, Rachel, Crystal, and Stefanie, run the farm. When I asked Theresa why she chose to take over her father's farm, she says, "I can't really describe why. I think it's in my blood. I always loved the farm ... if you love farming, it's just something you want to do."

The farm is 40 acres, with 15 acres of apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, and berries that visitors can pick themselves. Theresa says that the sweet and juicy peaches, plums, and nectarines are her favorites - she especially recommends Red Haven peaches. She also loves their apples, the crop for which the farm is most well known. Theresa describes her favorite variety honeycrisp as "really crispy, and just the right amount of sweet and tart."

Draper Girls Farm is also known as one of Oregon's few remaining licensed producers of non-pasteurized, unfiltered ciders. The farm offers apple, pear, and cherry cider, as well as delicious blends like cherry-apple, pear-apple, and the new raspberry-apple. Non-pasteurized cider has a fuller, richer flavor than pasteurized cider. Theresa says that drinking raw cider is almost like eating an apple or a handful of cherries, but with even more flavor. Unpasteurized ciders can start to ferment much sooner than pasteurized ciders, but the farm follows strict licensing and monitoring procedures to maintain its quality and shelf life.

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For visitors who have a full day or week to spend in the area, Draper Girls Farm is a stop along the Hood River County "Fruit Loop", a driving tour with dozens of stops at orchards, wineries, lavender farms, and even a chestnut farm and an alpaca farm.

In addition to fruit, Roman Braun had always raised sheep. Theresa and her daughters added goats, mini-goats, llamas, chickens, turkeys, and geese. The Draper Girls sell their grass-fed goat and lamb meat at farmers markets and at their onsite farm stand.

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Theresa has grown the farm through a rise in direct to consumer sales. She started the U-pick operation, her favorite way to sell produce. Theresa says, "The U-pick is really fun. People from the city get a feel for how we grow things, and they bring their kids to run around. Our yard has flowers all over it, we have a great big swing, and we have an old tractor that kids like to sit on for photos. We love that visitors feel at home when they visit our farm."

In Roman Braun's time, says Theresa, there were no farmers markets, and all their sheep were sold at auction. People came by the farm to buy large boxes of fruit for canning and drying, but direct-to-consumer sales were not a major part of the business.

In 2007, Theresa decided to add a farm stay. She invited guests to rent the little farmhouse where she lived as a child and where she raised her own children.

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Farm guests are invited to feed the animals, pick fruit, roam the farm, and participate in farm activities throughout the year. Venturing off the farm, they can tour the Fruit Loop, taste wine, visit the City of Hood River or Mt. Hood, and hike, bike, and wind surf, among many other activities

Though many people wouldn't think to visit a fruit farm in the winter or early spring, Theresa says it is a neat time of year on the farm. To growers it is called 'frost season,' and it is a vital time for ensuring that fruit trees yield a viable crop. During nightly freezes, the Drapers save their crops by running wind machines and overhead sprinklers that form droplets on the trees and their buds. The droplets, as they freeze, release heat and once frozen also provide essential insulation from the cold and wind.

Theresa says that the farmhouse has everything guests could want. She explains that she and her daughters fixed it up with bright cheerful colors. It has a fireplace, lots of antiques, and a big farm table where families can gather. The house is casual, not fancy, and family friendly. According to Theresa, "People who stay there really like it!"

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For more information about visiting Draper Girls Country Farm, check out their Farm Stay U.S. listing or their farm website. The Draper Girls cottage has four bedrooms and two baths and rents for $150 to $275/night.

All photos in this blog courtesy Draper Girls Country Farm.

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