Mt. Hope Farms, a family-owned, small-batch heritage farm in Molalla, has been named one of the Oregon winners of the 2020 Good Food Awards, which are held each year to recognize the nation’s best artisan food producers of coffee, chocolate, charcuterie, cheese and more.
The multi-generational family farm won the award for their Aronia Haskap Fruit Spread. It was that product’s second win, and Mt. Hope’s sixth GFA overall. That’s pretty good, especially considering the artisan growers and jam makers have been in business only since 2016.
Mt. Hope’s Laura Ellis said she and her husband, Mike, were “so honored” by the recognition.
“The list of 2020 winners is incredible, and all of us work hard,” she said. “To represent Oregon, and its farmers, at the Good Food Awards is something that we take very seriously and often can’t believe that we’ve had this opportunity again. We feel very blessed and excited!”
Other area producers to be recognized included McMinnville’s Alchemist’s Jam for their Raspberry Cardamom Rosehip spread, Dundee’s Briar Rose Creamery for their Maia cheese, and Clackamas’ JAZ Spirits for their Verstovia Spruce Tip Vodka and Cold Tree Gin.
Mt. Hope’s special spread is made from two fruits you may have never heard of before. Aronia berries, also known as “chokeberries,” (is it any wonder the Ellises prefer to use the term “aronia” on their labels?) are a small, dark purple berry that is native to North America and packed with antioxidants and natural health benefits.
Mt. Hope is one of the first growers in the Pacific Northwest to cultivate aronia, which they also use in their Blackberry Aronia Lavender Fruit Spread (a 2018 GFA winner!).
Haskap berries, also called honeyberries, are a wonderfully exotic “superberry” that’s native to Japan. The berries have a strange, almost rectangular shape and, according to Laura Ellis, are “bursting with flavor.”
Their sweetness — reminiscent of blueberry, raspberry and rhubarb — balances nicely with the more tannic, almost bitter, flavor of the aronia.
“When these two berries are simmered together in our jam pots, the results are magical!” Ellis says. “This product is near and dear to us because we grow every single berry. It’s also made in tiny batches, each jar preserved by us, each label placed by our hands. It gives us the chance to share a part of our farm, and the Willamette Valley, with anyone who tries it.”
Mike and Laura Ellis met at Eastern Oregon University. After their marriage, they returned to the Molalla grounds Mike’s parents and grandparents began working more than half a century ago. They are dedicated to sustainable farming, responsible stewardship and preserving their own — and the area’s — heritage of small, family-run farms.
“We want to thank the family who has supported us and encouraged us,” Laura says. “We couldn’t do this work without them and how they took care of the land before us!”
She also credited and thanked other area farmers and small businesses from whom they source ingredients for their spreads.
“We choose to work with people we know and trust, and we use the best possible ingredients from them,” she said. “Without these ingredients and fruit, our products wouldn’t be as special as they are, and they definitely wouldn’t taste as good!”
Mt. Hope promises their spreads are the closest you can get to “nature in a jar.” To try them for yourself, visit the farm’s online shop, or find them at TMK Creamery in Canby, or another store that carries their products.
You can also hear more from Mike and Laura on the Canby Now Podcast back on “Episode 71: Mt. Hope for the Best”:
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