“I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this (Sonoma County) is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as nature is concerned.”
Luther Burbank, the famed American botanist, horticulturist and pioneer of agricultural science, developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants over a 55-year career. And he did it all in Sonoma County. Burbank’s enthusiasm for his “chosen spot of all this earth” was based in part on Sonoma County’s “Goldridge” soil. This soil is a combination of sand, loam, and clay on a sandstone base. It is well-draining even as it varies from porous and soft to rocky and firm. Goldridge soil contributes to the success not only of Sonoma County’s world-renowned and rapidly proliferating vineyards, but also its diverse agricultural crops, including apples. The apple dominated local agricultural acreage when our family started Redwood Hill Farm goat dairy in the 1960s. Our original farm included a hillside fruit orchard containing Gravenstein apples. That orchard provided our growing family the prime ingredient for quarts of home-made applesauce and the best ever Gravenstein apple pies.
In the 1990’s, our Redwood Hill Farm dairy relocated a few miles down the road to our current location.
In 2008, we expanded our farm property on its southern border, purchasing about 10 acres when it came up for sale. The property acquired was mostly an orchard of old, gnarled, neglected apple trees on rootstock estimated to be about 80 years old. Our new orchard also included Gravenstein apple trees, a quintessential Sonoma County fruit that’s delicious. The Gravenstein is also delicate, perishable, hard to export, yet highly prized.
The work begins to revitalize the farm orchard.
We worked hard on revitalizing the apple orchard by pruning the long-neglected trees. Dead or diseased trees were removed, and new ones planted – mostly Gravenstein – in their midst. Here and there, other varieties were added, including Fuji, Sierra Beauty, Wickson, and Rubinette. We began spreading the clean out of our dairy goat barns into the orchard. Consequently, providing the soil with much needed organic matter. We immediately saw a difference as the apple trees flushed with new growth. The newly added organic matter also helped retain moisture in the soil of our dry-farmed orchard. Immediately we began harvesting bigger, juicier fruit. At Redwood Hill Farm we grow all our fruit (and other crops) using organic methods. We never use herbicides on the land.
Wanting variety and diversity, we have planted many other types of fruit.
Our hometown of Sebastopol is well known for its apples. However, a plethora of fruit also grows well here in our Mediterranean climate. From apricots to persimmons, we can usually find a ripe piece of fruit hanging most days of the year somewhere on the farm! More citrus has been planted too, as our south easterly exposed elevated hillside creates an environment with little frost compared to most other parts of Sonoma County. We have added a small grove of Asian pears with 6 different varieties. Loving stone fruit, we have planted peaches, apricots, pluots, apriums, and plums—including the Santa Rosa plum. Juicy with delicious red flesh, it was bred and created here in Sonoma County by Luther Burbank.
Yes, we think Luther Burbank ‘nailed it’: this county is indeed ‘the chosen spot of all this earth as far as nature is concerned’. Every year as the established orchard grows and matures, the harvest abundance from our own planted fruit trees grows as well. We are happy to provide our “cornucopia” of fruit seasonally on our “Capracopia” road-side farm stand!