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Agricultural life takes the stage for Placer Farm & Barn Tour
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County’s Placer Farm & Barn Tour was a chance for 10 farms, vineyards and ranches to open up their homes and hearts Sunday to the public. And the public again took advantage of the opportunity and streamed in to see what happens on the other side of the fence. Agricultural operations from Auburn to Sheridan took part in the fifth, and ultimately, final, Farm & Barn Tour. Visitors could see working farms off the beaten path like Thompson Ranch in rural Auburn that are not regularly open to the public. And they could visit others, like Viña Castellano Vineyard and Winery in North Auburn, that are embracing agri-tourism. The Thompson Ranch provided a glimpse into sheep raising that started with a view, as visitors cleared a hill, of working dogs herding livestock. There were mule-power demonstrations and talks on what it takes to grow food. Dan Macon, a Placer County Agriculture Commission member, said Saturday’s tour brought 300 people onto property he grazes sheep on. The tour provides a unique perspective for customers he can’t give as he sells meat at a farmer’s market, he said. A few miles to the east, Viña Castellano Vineyard’s Teena Wilkins was pouring samples of wines in a setting framed by the winery’s 8,000 vines, with a view of the Sutter Buttes in the distance. Viña Castellano wines can be bought in stores but the North Auburn winery is now open on Saturdays so people can bring home an experience as well as a bottle or case of wine, she said. “It’s about making the connection with us,” Wilkins said. At Viña Castellano Vineyard, visitors could watch grapes being crushed and see the last of the season’s harvest still waiting on vines to be picked. Like many other Farm & Barn Tour venues, there was also food to be sampled or bought. Snow’s Citrus Orchard and the Mountain Mandarin Festival provided samples and sales, while Auburn’s Le Bilig offered crepes. Gary Gilligan said that he was sad to hear the event would not continue. Farm & Barn committee member Nancyjo Riekse said last week that plans are to put on more seasonal tours throughout the year, starting with an event in December that will direct participants to Christmas tree farms, mandarin growers and winemakers. “It’s sad because people don’t know where our food comes from and this has brought people out every year,” Gilligan said. Gilligan said that regulations on issues like access-road width and parking have made it difficult for farmers to take part in the event. About 1,200 people were expected to participate in this year’s Farm & Barn Tour, with a few hundred visiting each location. “I’m happy to be out here,” said Auburn’s Britton Brown, as he toured Viña Castellano. “I’m supporting the local growers and I get to know all this is in my own backyard.” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com.