Contributed by Len McKenzie
MARIPOSA – Alpacas, foothill wines, hard apple cider, sustainably grown local vegetables and artisanal olive oils will share the spotlight this weekend on the 2015 Mariposa Farm & Ranch Tour, a project of the nonprofit Mariposa AgriNature Association.
Scheduled from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, this year’s tour will showcase five county growers’ agricultural products at their respective locations. Each site will offer agricultural and natural-resource products for sale and will host one or more area artists. Workshops, tours, presentations or demonstrations are slated at several sites. Representatives of local, thematically relevant nonprofits will also be on hand to display materials and provide information about their services.
Participating locations will include Raw Roots Farm and Epic Alpacas, both in Catheys Valley; the CostaLivos Mountain Gold Olive Oils downtown outlet, featuring products from its olive grove; the apple orchard and cider barn of the new Sierra Cider in Lushmeadows; and the nearby Butterfly Creek Winery and Vineyards on Triangle Road.
Raw Roots Farm, a three-acre sustainable, year-round family farm, produces a diversity of vegetables adapted to the seasonal climatic conditions in the foothills. Motivated by a desire to connect consumers with producers and to minimize the energy required to deliver their products, owners Andrew and Lauren Glikin sell their produce at the farm through a community-shared agriculture program and at local farmers’ markets. The farm setting also teaches guests about sustainable living practices.
Epic Alpacas, owned and managed by Steve and Casey Aitchison, is now the largest ranch of its kind in California with more than 200 huacaya alpacas. The Aitchisons breed primarily gray-colored alpacas with elite fleeces used in garments and other fine fiber products.
Since the date of the Farm & Ranch Tour coincides with National Alpaca Farm Days this weekend, tour participants will be able to enjoy the ranch’s annual open house that will include guided tours and kids’ activities such as face painting and a pet-ting zoo. The ranch gift shop will offer a variety of sales items made from alpaca fiber, and lunch will be available for purchase.
Nestled in the western Sierra Nevada foothills, CostaLivos’ olive grove produces high-quality fruits that yield flavorful extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Don Costa, whose family had emigrated to California from the Portuguese Azores in the 1800s to farm its rich soil, and wife Kim planted their olive grove on a former ranch they purchased in 2012. 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 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.
Dave and Beth Lancaster’s desire to live in the Sierra foothills and to grow apple trees while enjoying the many recreational opportunities in the Yosemite area eventually led to the creation of Sierra Cider. After purchasing their Lushmeadows property with an old apple orchard in 2003 and trying futilely for several years to keep it productive, the Lancasters decided to replace the trees so they could produce their own cider.
In 2009 they planted 800 apple trees of 20 different varieties with the help of family and friends. Last year saw the completion of a cider barn and, last fall, the Lancasters’ first juicing, which produced 1,000 gallons of juice. The juice has since been fermenting, and the Farm & Ranch Tour will provide an early opportunity for local residents to sample the product. Beth and Dave will also offer morning and afternoon tours of the orchard and barn that day, and neighbor Lowell Young, a skilled birder, will lead a bird walk on the property at 8 a.m.
The Gerken family established Butterfly Creek Winery and Vineyards soon after arriving in Mariposa in 1972, carefully cultivating and nurturing 200 acres of several grape varietals to produce premium wines. The picturesque property on Triangle Road offers a delightful setting for a picnic lunch (food will be available onsite for purchase on the day of the tour) and is a popular site for weddings and special events.
Winemaker and general manager Bob Gerken will be on hand during the tour to provide information about the wines and the wine-making process. Professional photographer Charles Phillips will present a photo workshop at 8 a.m.
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 at (209) 377-8203, or visit www.mariposafarmsandranches.com for more details on the locations and the activities to be offered at each site.