THE APPLE HILL™ STORY

 

 

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.”

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Fausel Ranch

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FAUSEL RANCH
4881 Hanks Exchange Rd.
Placerville, CA 95667

Proprietors: David and Deanna Fausel

The Fausel Ranch is listed in California’s Agricultural Heritage Club and received special recognition in 2010 with a plaque in their honor. The ranch’s first year of operation is listed as 1877, but the Fausels were busy long before then.

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There are two family founders to be acknowledged who immigrated from Germany: Fred and Mari Giebenhain who built the brick house on Placerville’s Main Street circa 1860 and started a brewery there. And Kasper and Filomena Fausel of Germany and Switzerland who settled on Hanks Exchange Road in Placerville circa 1870.

Fred and Mari Giebenhain had five boys and two girls. Kasper and Filomena Fausel had five children. Kasper’s eldest son, Emil, married Giebenhain’s daughter, Mary in 1900. They lived in the downtown brick house until Mary’s death in 1959. She was 90 years old.

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Kasper was known for his rock masonry work, building cellars and buildings in El Dorado County. He is listed in the George Peabody book of History. Other attentions involved horses, wine, potatoes, grapes, cows and milk sold to Sacramento Crystal Creamery. The biggest venture was the brewery downtown, where “Mountain Steam Beer” became so well known it won 1902 World’s Fair recognition in St. Louis. It was said to cure everything from women’s ailments to sunburn. Prohibition in 1921 closed that venture, and the family took up farming on the then 40 acres on Hanks Exchange Rd.

The property included the Squaw Creek Dam that was built in 1861, but broke down a year later. The water from Cosumnes River that feeds the ditch run to Squaw Creek is still used by the County’s Irrigation District. Diamond & Caldor Railway also ran through a corner of the property.

Kaspar’s sons Emil, and Bill both worked the ranch and also worked the Victory Mine until his youngest son, Albert closed it. Albert continued working the ranch until 1975. Eggs, milk cows, pears, apples and vegetables from his large garden kept the family busy. Emil’s son, Frank Fausel, married Helen Rudkin in 1945 and had two sons, David and Dan, both of whom have been living and working in Placerville.

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David and Deanna Fausel own and operate (with their son Albert) the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi – a veritable gold mine for residents, visitors and tourists in Placerville. “It has everything,” locals often say, “if you can’t find it there, they don’t make it.” Gold mining tools, equipment and supplies are well stocked. Employees of the store participated in the 1998 World Gold Panning Championship held in Coloma. 2016 is a busy gold mining year for the entire County as participants in the World Gold Panning Championship event descend on the area in April and in September taking prospecting to the next level.

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The Fausel family ranch on Hanks Exchange grew from the original family property to 93 acres, 15 of which is heavily planted with peach, nectarine, four varieties of cherry (some boasting 30+ years), plum, chestnut and pomegranate trees.

In addition to weather (especially rain at the wrong time or no chilling hours), gophers, voles and other wildlife, “it’s a constant vigil,” he explained. “In 30 years, I never had peach rot ‘til last year, an internal rot. Everything you do is preventive. If you see it, it’s too late. You can lose a whole crop that way. If a disease is present in the tree, it isn’t enough to spray, you spray it, and cut it down.”

“I just love farming,” David Fausel says. “I like to grow good food, work away from the hustle and bustle, investigate and try different varieties to grow, and try to beat Mother Nature’s dirty tricks.”

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“I tried organic growing at one time,” he said. “But honestly, it’s way too much spraying, too often. Manufacturers are very up-to-date on ecology, organics and the like. There are specific sprays for specific pests, so you’re not inundating the entire orchard with chemicals.”

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All spraying is done during dormant or early bloom and long gone by the time fruit arrives. He hand thins the fruit himself, emphasizes the need for heavy winter pruning and the need for frequent replanting/replacing trees. David emphasized that he is planning more orchard space and expects to keep the farm running indefinitely.

“It’s very much a family affair,” Deanna Fausel says. “It’s a joy to watch three generations picking peaches, there is plenty of hustle and bustle, and then helping with a late, big family dinner. I don’t think farm to fork is such a new idea. I remember grandma collecting eggs and taking them downtown to trade or sell.”

Today, David sells much of the fruit he raises at a roadstand at the end of their driveway, or at the hardware store. “And it all goes,” he says.

Placerville in the News

Channel 10 visited Placerville Hardware early Friday, April 8 while Walt Gray was at Sweetie Pies interviewing an El Dorado County favorite. It’s the April 15-18 2016 Gold Prospecting and Mining Summit that is highlighting Placerville’s history prior to the September 2016 World Gold Panning Championship event at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds.

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The Fausel family’s fourth generation was present in Albert Fausel’s 3 yr old son, AJ, who busied himself on the floor with gold panning activity.

Third generation Albert Fausel showed the camera crew the Superchamp gold panning dish the hardware store carries ($150) is the favorite among local and worldwide enthusiasts. “It’s the Ferrari of gold panning dishes,” he explained. “Panners want to get their time under a minute without loosing gold, and this pan is the speediest.”

Albert went on to show his gold nuggets, siphoned out of the American River, a technique he recommends as quick and easy. The store sells the tiny vials of gold nuggets and red garnets in a pouch for $10. The oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi is reputed to “have everything—you can find it there, whatever it is.” Amy Carabba, reporter, and Adam Christy, cameraman, followed Albert and his father, David Fausel about the store while they showed historical photographs of the store’s founder, Emil Fausel, who bought Placerville Hardware from Al Kiebers in 1952.

The last world championship panning event took place in Coloma in 1998, attended by throngs on visitors, including Pete Wilson, then California Governor. This years championship occurs during “Gold Week”, Sept. 11-18 and glitters with activities that are expected to attract thousands. The California Federation of Mineralogical Societies’ Rock and Gem Show Convention Sept. 16-18 will bring its own enthusiasts to participate in the dozens of activities and events planned in the city and surrounds.