Consult the directories listed in The Gold Nuggets of El Dorado County in this blog for maps, open hours, days, and contact information for over 64 certified producers, 22 of them registered organic.
Agriculture in El Dorado County grew after the gold rush. There were about 16 ranchers, mostly pear orchards. In 1958, a pear blight struck, taking with it 52,000 tons of fruit which diminished to 8,435 tons by 1965. Clearly something had to be done. The Apple Hill™ Growers united in 1964. They were Gene Bolster, local grower; Dick Bethell, El Dorado County’s pomology specialist and farm advisor; Ed Delfino, El Dorado County’s agricultural commissioner; and Bob Tuck, a retired army officer. (Photo: Edie Delfino)
Bolster and Delfino decided to find out what made the Oak Glen Farm in Southern California so successful and brought home a marketing program to present to local Camino ranchers. Together with the rich soil, they were determined to make the region productive once more. On their side was an ideal growing season and a long chilling season to keep the trees dormant longer, which contributes to the better flavor.
Photo: 30-year old cherry trees at Fausel Family Farm
At Larsen’s Ranch, you will find the Rhode Island Greening which is believed to be the oldest apple tree in El Dorado County. At Hilltop Ranch, the Bolsters have collected a number of antique varieties, making available some of the apples of your childhood.
As early as August 1964, an inaugural press picnic was held, free apples were distributed, homemade baked goods, jams, jellies and sauces were tasted and Apple Hill™ “rose like a phoenix from the ashes of disaster,” Bolster observed. “Apple Hill™ was the first ranch marketing effort in Northern California,” Delfino said, “and its success is shown by the fact that now there are ranch marketing groups all over. Apple Hill is a great example of government, farmers and media working together for everyone’s good.” Today from 16 ranches, Apple Hill™ Growers number 48 or more. An update in the 2016 Crop Report states:
“The gross crop value for the County of El Dorado was $61,859,905 million, representing a decrease of 3.2% from the 2015 values. Ap‐ ples and apple products remained the leading crop with a total value of $19.2 million. Livestock rose to the second leading crop with a value of $10.7 million. Winegrape values increased by 7.9% over the 2015 values to $8.7 million. Timber values were $5,322,915, which was the largest decline with a decrease of 60%.
“Monetary values in this report are F.O.B. (Freight On Board) and do not reflect net returns or profits realized by the growers. It is es ‐ mated that the impact of agriculture to the County of El Dorado’s economy totaled approximately $560 million in 2016, of which, Apple Hill™ and value‐added products contributed an estimated $255 million while the wine industry added another $287 million.”