Farm Trails annual event takes place Aug. 17-18 at Ragle Ranch Park
August weather’s best trait in Sonoma County may be for ripening Gravenstein apples, those half sweet, slightly tart, perfectly juicy gifts of nature. Lucky for everyone, August also comes with a weekend fair dedicated to the heritage fruit where pies, fritters, ciders, fresh-pressesd juice and more pies all made with local Gravensteins are available by the bag, bushel and armful.
This year’s Gravenstein Apple Fair takes place Aug. 17 and 18 at Sebastopol’s Ragle Ranch Regional Park. It is the 46th annual event and fundraiser for Sonoma County Farm Trails, a nonprofit membership organization of small family farms.
The weekend fair also features two full days of live music, fun apple-themed contests, lots of live farm animals and demonstrations and artisan food, wine, beer and cider tastings. There are no noisy electric carnival rides or neon lights and the food offerings by local producers and vendors are a lot healthier than corndogs and cotton candy. General admission is $15 daily with discounts for children and seniors.
Farm Trails was founded in 1973 by the Kozlowski, Walker, Dutton, Hurst and other farm families as a cooperative way to promote farm and farm stand visitors. Today, Farm Trails is assisted at the annual fair by other ag partners such as North Coast Organics (Manzana Products), Sonoma County Farm Bureau, Sonoma County Winegrowers, American Ag Credit and others. The two-day fair is primarily run by volunteers who now include many second and third generation members of the original founding families.
Music headliners this year includes Hot Buttered Rum, Gator Nation, Midtown Social, French Oak Gypsy Band and several other local favorites. All performances are free with general admission. Limited Ragle Ranch parking is available for $5 and a free shuttle operates both days from Holy Ghost Hall on Mill Station Road and the O’Reilly Media campus on Gravenstein Highway North.
Other crowd favorites are the daily apple pie eating and apple juggling contests, open to all-comers. Sonoma County Winegrwers is sponsoring the Wine Tasting Tent and other areas are dedicated to craft cider tasting and an Artisan Tasting Lounge ($25 entry).
“Our theme is ‘Farmers Forever,’” said Carmen Snyder, Farm Trails’ executive director. “Farming is true grit, and we are privileged to have such a hard-working and vibrant force of people bringing a diverse range of products to our tables.”
While Sonoma County is becoming more and more known as wine and vineyard country, Farm Trails remains dedicated to preserving and celebrating the region’s ag diversity and focus on sustainable land stewardship practices. A great example of this is the presence of North Coast Organics, Sonoma County’s only remaining apple processor. Founded in 1922 as the R.E. Oehlman Evaporator, and incorporated as Manzana Products in 1945, North Coast Organics purchases and processes almost the entire local Gravenstein and later apple crops. The company is now affiliated with Agrial/Eclorsa, a French company Other original ag roots can be found in the box of fresh-picked apples from the Walker and Dutton families.
Other Gravenstein Apple Fair activities will include a series of do-it-yourself seminars and workshops on making jams, building a bee hive, mushroom cultivation and more. Local farmers will demonstrate sheep shearing, soap making, living with llamas, raising goats and more barnyard pursuits.
More information and advance tickets are available at www.farmtrails.org.