Today was the annual self-guided Tuolumne County Farm & Ranch Tour. The tour featured five local farms and we visited four of them (we skipped the winery). I’m not sure why, but I was kind of expecting more. Don’t get me wrong… we had a good time and learned a few things, but I was expecting more of the “tour” part. We drove to each location and each farm was supposed to have a special feature or demonstration of some sort.
Our first stop was at Rancho Torales/Sonora Gold which is a lavender and olive oil farm.
The small lavender field was beautiful with all of the black bumblebees buzzing around busily. Rancho Torales also had two visiting llamas (which freak the hell out of me) and Cami was more than happy to offer them carrots. It had been quite awhile since I had seen one and now I quite vividly remember how oddly shaped they are. Creepy! I was on the verge of tears being so close to them, but it was for Cami.
I was a little disappointed at this stop because the farm owners were more interested in making olive oil sales than telling people about their business. It would have been interesting to hear about the process the lavender or olives go through before becoming that finished product. Or even the maintenance and care involved in keeping these plants.
The second stop on the tour was by far my favorite! We visited the pygora goat farm, Sweet River Ranch. Not only did they have the cutest Pygmy/angora goats, their whole ranch overlooked the Tuolumne River. Beautiful location! The owners were the perfect hosts with a table of sample pygora wool next to a pen of goat does (females) and their furry kids (goat kids I mean).
Cami even got to feed the goats some sunflower seeds. It’s hard not to be a big hit with that girl when you have a herd of fifty goats. The “Spinners Guild” was also there, but despite my best efforts, I failed to get any real tips or advice out of them. Oh well. Another time maybe. The adorable goats made up for it.
Next up was Mother Lode Ranch where we met some pack mules and almost took a horse-led carriage ride. Our carriage ride was foiled by the two-year old in the group who couldn’t wait the twenty minutes for the next ride. I couldn’t blame her though because by this time the temperature was in the high high nineties.
Lastly was Solomon’s Gardens, a local plant nursery. Unfortunately they didn’t have the heirloom-vegetable demonstration garden that they claimed to have in the brochure… so there wasn’t anything of any interest there.
All in all though, we had a great time and enjoyed seeing what other people in the county were doing. This tour also reaffirmed the fact that most farming is based on a monoculture model where only one aspect or crop is focused on. Not one of these four farms had more than one focus. Grass-fed beef cattle. Pygora goats. Lavender. Trees. No bees even! Geez people.
Hopefully next year there will be at least one farm based on sustainable permaculture methods or even (dare I say…) intensive growing practices. Let’s see us some veggies! Am I right?! I really appreciate those farms/ranches that opened their doors to the public today though. At least there can be one day out of the year when people can experience local agriculture and the people behind it.