Chef Kristen Lyon plans to prepare dinners at Hanley Farm with ingredients grown on the property to benefit Southern Oregon Historical Society. - Bob Pennell

Origins of Taste

Guests won't just hear tales of Southern Oregon's past at monthly gatherings this summer on Hanley Farm.

They'll view the artifacts and taste the food of the circa-1857 property.

"Origins" dinners are a fundraising effort for the Southern Oregon Historical Society with support from Valley View Winery and J'ville Market. Subtitled "A Discovery of Place," the series is designed to acquaint farm visitors with its unique terroir, evident in foods grown organically on the property, much as they were more than a century ago.

"It's really a tangible way to look at history," says chef Kristen Lyon. "You realize how disconnected we've become to our food."

SOHS tapped Lyon to prepare the multicourse meals as an extension of her work with J'ville Market, which leases some Hanley fields to grow vegetables for sale at the Sunday farmers market in Jacksonville and for its community-supported agriculture program. Most of the crops come from heirloom plant varieties, and J'ville Market plans to raise some poultry for late-summer farm dinners, says Lyon. The first event will feature beef from Jacksonville's Salant Family Ranch.

Although Lyon, a personal chef and caterer, likely has a lighter hand than farmhouse cooks of yore, the inaugural "Origins" menu of beef roast, potatoes and buttered spring peas would have been familiar fare in the 1800s. Hers is updated with a syrah reduction. Likewise, fresh ginger modernizes classic shortcake with strawberries and cherries.

All the food will be prepared on site, which factors into her inspiration for handling and presenting it, says Lyon. Seating for 100 dinner guests with be outdoors under the farm's massive walnut trees. And at some gatherings, participants will get to help harvest and process some ingredients, says Lyon.

"Food has always been a natural community builder and organizer," she says. "It still functions in the same way it did back then."

The events are an attempt by SOHS to reach out to supporters and local residents in the aftermath of losing government funding and closing its museums, says board member Kerri Hecox. Historical artifacts retrieved from storage for the event will be relevant to the programming, she says.

"You're kind of having an evening created as a museum."

The State of Jefferson movement is the theme for the first dinner. Retired archaeologist and historian Jeff LaLande will lecture on the region's 160 years of searching for a separate identity. Tina Reusaat of SOHS will curate the exhibit.

Subsequent themes will be Southern Oregon's migrant workers Aug. 4, Jacksonville's Chinese community Sept. 1 and Native American prehistory and archaeology Sept. 29, says Hecox. Foods traditional to the featured cultures likely will inspire the corresponding meals, adds Hecox. Each will be paired with Valley View wines. Pricing and mealtimes to be announced.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email

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