Submitted by Len McKenzie
MARIPOSA COUNTY – The Mariposa AgriNature Association invites all county residents and visitors to participate in this year’s Farms & Ranches project at the properties of several local agricultural producers on Saturday, September 26, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Featured locations on the tour will include CostaLivos Mountain Gold Olive Oils in downtown Mariposa, Sierra Cider of Lushmeadows, Butterfly Creek Winery on Triangle Road, and Raw Roots Farm and Epic Alpacas, both in Catheys Valley. Each site will offer agricultural and natural-resource products for sale and will host workshops and local artists. Representatives of local, thematically relevant nonprofits will also be on hand to display materials and provide information about their services.
Nestled in the western Sierra Nevada foothills, CostaLivos’ olive grove produces high-quality fruits that are hand-picked and cold-pressed to yield flavorful extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Don Costa and wife Kim planted their olive grove on a former ranch they purchased in 2012, realizing their longtime dream of tilling the land. They created the CostaLivos brand by merging the family name with the Spanish word for olives to reflect the Spanish origin of their Arbequina and Manzanillo olive trees.
Don’s family emigrated from the Portuguese Azores to California soon after the Gold Rush, not to seek gold, but to farm its rich soil. Settling in the San Joaquin Valley, they planted vegetables, vineyards, and fruit orchards. His mother’s family hailed from Bari, Italy, an Adriatic Sea community noted for its rich heritage of classic cuisine founded mostly on its agricultural products—wheat, olives, and fish. Don learned to cook at his grandmother’s side.
Don’s father and sister, and Don and Kim’s children are continuing the family farming tradition, all pitching in to help the artisanal CostaLivos business grow.
Sierra Cider was molded out of Dave and Beth Lancaster’s desire to live in the Sierra foothills and to grow apple trees while enjoying the many recreational opportunities the Yosemite area offers. They purchased their Lushmeadows property comprising a small house and an old apple orchard in 2003. After trying for several years, as weekend farmers with weekday jobs elsewhere, to maintain the orchard and keep it productive, it became apparent it was a losing battle—the trees were past their prime and had be-come a source of pests and diseases.
Having discovered a locally produced cider at their favorite pub, the Lancasters decided to replace the orchard so they could produce their own cider. After several years of planning, removing the old trees, and preparing the site for a new orchard, they planted 800 apple trees of 20 different varieties in November 2009 with the help of their family and friends.
Dave retired and became a full-time farmer in 2010, Beth in 2013. Last year saw the completion of a cider barn and, last fall, the Lancasters’ first juicing, which produced 1,000 gallons of juice. While the juice has been fermenting, they have been working with various regulatory agencies to bring their finished product to market. The Farm & Ranch Tour on September 26 will provide an early opportunity for local residents to sample that product.
Beth and Dave will also offer morning and afternoon tours of the orchard and barn on the day of the tour, and neighbor Lowell Young, president of the Yosemite Area Audubon Society, will lead a bird walk on their property at 8:00 a.m. that morning.
An article featuring Raw Roots Farm, Epic Alpacas, and Butterfly Creek Winery appeared in last week’s editions of this and other local publications.
Tickets for the tour are $10 per person or $25 for a carload. Kids under 12 are free when accompanied by a paying adult. Advance tickets can be purchased at the Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce and Casto Oaks Wine downtown, or on the day of the event at any participating location. Contact Kris Casto, (209) 377-8203, or visit www.mariposafarmsandranches.com for more details.