We were among the lucky 250 ticket holders to this year’s annual Farm City bus tour that takes participants to visit five different farms in and around the county.
Held on the third Wednesday of November by the county’s farm bureau for 33 years, it’s the event we most look forward to attending each year since moving to Chico.
Each has been informative and enjoyable, the expert agribusiness guides and farm hosts pumping us with facts we had not known about the wonderful farms in the county both large and small.
This year it was organized so we were assigned to a bus when we checked in, instead of in pat years where we had to scramble to find open seats on one of the five buses hired for the occasion. That happened to us last year while we had dawdled having coffee and donuts and those “in the know” saved choice seats for the friends. We had ended up next to the restroom! With assigned buses, we found seats toward the front,and to my surprise, two women recognized me as one of the North State Voices columnists in 2012, quite flattering for a nonentity like me.
Our route took us to the hilly farms in Oroville, beginning with the five-acre Morse mandarin orange farm. There the owners told us each fruit was hand picked using clippers to prevent damage to the fragile skin during their November to January harvest. We were delighted to be given samples, told we could throw the peels on the ground so they could later be composted, and had opportunity to taste and buy marmalade and other products they sold.
The bus driver skillfully maneuvered the big bus on the narrow dirt or gavel roads at each farm, while the riders listened to the guides give statistics, trivia facts and entertained us with farm-related stories. WE were informed it’s a common misconception most American farms are run by corporations but in fact, there are still 85,000 family-owned farms, though 20,000 acres are lost to urban development each year. It was also interesting to be informed California is #1 in milk production, not Wisconsin! California must indeed have “happy cows.”
Next for our group was the ten-acre Quillici Vineyards run by its owners with the help of seasonal employees. They make varietal and other wines sold after aging for two years in oak barrels, as well as selling juice to home brewers.
With the rapid rise in the use of olive oil, our visit to the Lodestar olive oil producer had us tasting extra virgin olive oil, and oils mixed with lemon, garlic and balsamic vinegar. We learned it takes fifty pounds of olives to yield a gallon of extra virgin oil oil.
Driving off Hwy. 149, the bus drove on an overpass bridge to the big 3500-acre cattle Table Mountain Ranch owned and operated by the Brown family. It’s been theirs for six generations, and our hostess was their vivacious daughter Megan, who helps her parents run the huge operation scientifically. An interesting fact unknown to most of us was that the ranch was a target practice range during WWII. The famous Chuck Yeager was among the the test pilots. The cattle were still feeding in Plumas county so the range was empty, but besides giving us facts about their ranch, she showed off her pet tea-cup pig that performed tricks like a smart dog.
Finally, our last stop was the Chaffin Family Orchards that produce many different fruits, olives, sheep for wool, grass fed cattle and egg laying chickens, while continuing to carry on their philosophy of helping their workers be educated and sustained economically.
And of course by the end of the tour we were all happily tired and hungry from breathing in the fresh air and standing around listening to the speakers, and bouncing along the bumpy roads, and our rea rd was the delicious grilled halves of chicken sered with rice and salad. The brochure informed us our former neighbor Bill headed the volunteer lunch cooks, and they again did a marvelous job of cooking the chickens to a delectable turn.
The Farm Tour is definitely worth getting up early to enjoy visiting the many agribusinesses in the county.
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