Celebrating the Women-Owned Businesses of Klamath County
Since its founding as the 33rd state in 1859, Oregon has been home to countless strong, independent women who upend the status quo, blaze their own trails, and fight for what’s right. Abigail Scott Duniway, one of the state’s most influential residents, fought passionately for women’s rights in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Beverly Cleary, meanwhile, introduced generations of readers to Ramona Quimby, Beezus Quimby, and some of the 20th century’s most beloved literary characters.
And not for nothing, but the state’s motto spells it all out: “She flies with her own wings.”
Klamath County is no exception. Across our scenic region, you’ll find women-led businesses growing fresh produce, preparing creative dishes from those local ingredients, and even helping visitors connect with the Southern Oregon outdoors. We couldn’t begin to shout them all out here, but here are three notable women-owned businesses that have an impact and make a difference in Klamath County.
How Jensen Equine Began Offering Horseback Rides at Running Y Resort
As a student at University of California Santa Cruz, Jacqueline Jensen was no stranger to the nearly six-hour drive between campus and her family’s home in Los Angeles. The trips were scenic but nondescript, largely following Highway 101 near the state’s coast.
One of those trips, however, changed Jensen’s life forever.
Jensen recalls stopping at a gas station in the community of Lompoc, where an attendant mentioned that he’d once ridden a horse along the entirety of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)—a path that stretches from the United States-Mexico border in the south to the United States-Canada border in the north while largely straddling the crest of the Cascade Range. (The PCT even passes through western Klamath County—and is one of the top 10 things to do around Klamath Falls.)
“That blew my mind,” Jensen says of that fateful meeting. “I was like, ‘I can’t even imagine what that experience would be like. That is incredible.'”
Jensen, who started riding horses at age 10 and continued to train through college, became inspired to work in the industry and lead backcountry trips as a guide. Over the years that followed, she received certifications and graduated from a program that taught wilderness guiding skills—but soon realized that path wasn’t for her; Jensen wanted to start a family and knew that spending days or weeks in the mountains, largely unreachable, wasn’t possible.
Still, she persevered—continuing to ride and raise horses, as well as taking courses on guiding trail riding. Gradually, Jensen realized that all her training was perfect for leading day trips into the great outdoors. “I felt like it was all of my passions coming together, because I loved it all,” she says.
So in 2022, Jensen moved to Klamath Falls and pitched Running Y Resort on a brand-new horseback riding program. Management was receptive, and Jensen led her first trail ride that spring. Today, she offers rides through forests surrounding the resort, leads youth camps, and teaches riders of all abilities.
In less than two seasons, Jensen has been blown away by the response and excitement for her offerings—and is excited for what’s to come. “It’s been great to watch how this program can expand to meet the needs of the resort and its community,” she says.
Terra Veg Vegan Eatery Brings International Flavors, Vegan Flair to Klamath Falls
In 2012, Elizabeth Arraj was experiencing a variety of health issues when she read a book extolling the virtues of a vegan and vegetarian-friendly lifestyle. “So I was just like, ‘I’ll just try it on my own and see what happens,'” Arraj says. “And I started feeling better and losing weight.”
Eventually, Arraj lost about 250 pounds and, as a budding chef, became interested in sharing her affection for creative vegan fare with the wider world.
As part of that effort, she started cooking at a Klamath Falls café where diners routinely clamored for more vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes—feedback that inspired Arraj to consider opening her own restaurant. “I felt like there was a need, whether it’s locals or travelers, but I knew that doing a vegan restaurant in cow-and-potato country was super risky,” she says.
Still, Arraj was undaunted. And in March 2019, she opened the doors to Terra Veg Vegan Eatery in downtown Klamath Falls, featuring falafel, shawarma, salads, and other Middle Eastern dishes inspired by her family and upbringing. (A photo of Arraj’s father, who was half-Lebanese, sits in the eatery’s kitchen today.)
Even beyond the health-focused menu, Arraj is working hard to make a difference. She installed solar panels on her roof, grows ingredients in an on-site garden, composts her vegetable scraps, and sources greens, beets, and other seasonal produce from local growers.
As Arraj sees it, she’s not just feeding hungry diners; she’s striving to have an impact on our very relationship with the food we eat. “It’s just being aware of the whole picture,” she says. “It’s not just about nourishing ourselves with food and nourishing ourselves physically, but nourishing ourselves on all levels and being healthy on all levels.”
Creating Community Through Local Produce and Agriculture
Until a few years ago, Katie Swanson was a high-school teacher in the Portland, Oregon, area. The Portland area is widely celebrated for its emphasis on fresh, local, and farm-to-table fare—and Swanson became enamored by the work that went into making that possible.
So enamored, in fact, that she spent her summers working on local farms—formative experiences that would change her life. “As soon as I started working on farms, I knew this was what I was meant to be doing,” she says. “I loved every part of it; I loved the physical labor, I loved being outside, and I loved the connection to the community.”
In 2016, Swanson left the classroom behind and—along with her husband, Dallas—moved to Klamath County so she could begin farming. Today, Swanson is owner and operator of Sweet Union Farm. Among other crops, Sweet Union grows squash, carrots, potatoes, watermelon, and greens (such as salad mix, spinach, and kale) on a one-acre farm just outside of Klamath Falls.
And while Swanson enjoys growing the food, it’s what happens next that energizes her the most. Since planting her first crop, Swanson has sold Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) bundles to community members, provided winter squash to the Klamath County School District, and helped found Klamath Grown—a collective of local producers that promotes the region’s farms through an online market, an easy-to-use directory of nearby growers, and more. If you’d like to sample some of Sweet Union’s offerings on your next visit, find its vendor booth at the Klamath Falls Farmers Market (open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday between June and October)—or place an order through Klamath Grown’s Online Market for local pickup.
No matter the venue, it all reflects a desire to help others understand the wider food system and develop a deeper appreciation for where it was grown. “For people to know where their food is coming from—and to integrate it into the culture of a place—I think it’s really, really important,” Swanson says. “And I see myself as a part of that.”