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Family Day spotlights zest for mandarin farming

By: Gloria Young, Home & Garden
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There won’t be a Placer Farm & Barn Tour this year. But PlacerGrown is stepping in to fill the gap with Family Day on the Farm, offering an up-close look at mandarin production. It isn’t a replacement for the annual Farm & Barn multi-site agricultural experience, emphasized Karen Killebrew, PlacerGrown board president. “The goal is to inaugurate a new series of farm events presented by PlacerGrown, especially having them at venues that haven’t had events before and assisting (growers) through the permit process so they feel comfortable having events on their own.” Mandarin Hill Orchards in Penryn is hosting the citrus showcase, which will include tours of the packing house and orchards, BLT sandwiches made from Coffee Pot Ranch bacon and local heirloom tomatoes, as well as food samplings from Drooling Dog BarBQ and Paul Martin’s American Bistro. Killebrew has also lined up a dessert auction, wine and cider tasting, agroart playgarden, live music and PlacerGrown vendors. The history of mandarin growing locally goes back more than a century. “Today Satsuma mandarin orchards thrive where citrus was first planted by Joel Parker Whitney and other early settlers of the region in the late 1880s,” Killebrew said in a press release. There are 29 local mandarin growers, she said. The Aguilar family has farmed the Penryn property since the 1940s. Initially, Frank and Bernice Aguilar grew pears, peaches and plums. But in the 1950s, disease wiped out many of the pear trees. That’s when Frank Aguilar turned to citrus. By the late 1950s, Aguilar had mandarins in full production. It proved to be an ideal crop that continues to flourish. In the late 1990s, son Tom Aguilar retired from his job with Reynolds Aluminum in Rocklin and now leads the farm. “It’s definitely home,” he said this week. In addition to mandarins, the orchards produce Valencia oranges “We sell everything pretty much locally and also to the Raley’s (supermarket) chain,” Tom Aguilar said. Family Day visitors will get a taste of the history along with the flavor of life on the farm. “The family will be there all afternoon answering questions and we’ll have some pretty cool photos on display,” Aguilar said. But it will be too early to actually sample the fruit. Typically mandarins ripen during November, with peak season occurring near the time of the Mandarin Festival — to be held this year on Nov. 22 and 23 in Auburn — and during December. “We usually go from the first week of November through the end of the year,” Aguilar said. Production also tends to alternate between bounty and lean years. “I think the crop will be really good this year,” Tom Aguilar said. “The weather has been really good, so flavor should be good. Everyone I’ve been talking to says we’re going to have a heavy crop.” Killebrew is planning for approximately 100 visitors for the PlacerGrown fundraiser. Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit’s agricultural marketing program. Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Family Day on the Farm When: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11 Where: Mandarin Hill Orchards, 2234 Mandarin Hill Lane, off Rippey Road, Penryn Cost: Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for children age 14 and under For more information and tickets: Visit PlacerGROWN.org or call (530) 889-7398. Tickets may also be purchased at the Auburn Farmers’ Market on Saturday, Oct. 3 For more information on Mandarin Hill Orchards, see mandarinhillorchards.com