Monday, May 14, 2012

Rockin' the Apple Orchard

“There are things known
and there are things unknown
and in between are the doors.”

Jim Morrison, Letters from Joe

As a 1970s graduate of Santa Rosa Junior College, a time of great beauty and innocence in the Valley of the Moon, I'm always glad to get messages about happenings at the college. Mentions of  the city evoke memories--the smell of the bakery around the corner from the house where I lived with a half dozen other people that operated through the night to deliver fresh donuts to cafes in the morning. The filtered sunlight through the giant oak trees on campus. The vineyards in moonlight. The horse stable and my roommate's Appaloosa, the manure smelling sweet and musty on a hot day.

I think about the time we went out to a Garvenstein apple orchard near the Russian River, drinking Red Mountain wine from a gallon jug in the farm house, sitting before a roaring fire in the fall, making popcorn and listening to Jim Morrison and The Doors, tripping out. Someone got the idea of breaking into the huge apple storage barn on the farm. They assured us the night watchman was a drinker and safely asleep before midnight.

The moon was full as we slinked through the orchard. I remember someone pried the barn door open and I slipped inside with the others. It hit me like a punch, knocked me sober, opened my nostrils, arrested my senses. Inside the shed were wooden bins stacked to the ceiling, two stories up, filled with newly harvested apples. I will never forget the concentrated aroma of apples, apples and more apples. I reached into a low bin and took one, ate one, became one as all my senses were engulfed

The news that the college's Shone Farm, which is out on the Russian River, just released its first olive oil and beef jerky for sale from its agriculture education programs caught my attention. The new products are part of efforts to teach students about “value added” items that can be created from livestock and food crops. The Spanish and Greek variety olives used in the olive oil and the beef cattle used for the jerky were raised at the college’s 365-acre farm near Forestville.

College students in the sustainable agriculture program helped SRJC vineyard manager Chris Wills harvest the olives from the school’s 1,800-tree olive grove. The olives were taken to a commercial olive press in Sonoma and bottled. They're available for $18 each at the SRJC bookstore, B. Robert Burdo Culinary Arts Center, and the Wineyard, a wine tasting room in Santa Rosa.


SRJC students involved in the livestock program raised and cared for the steer, which was taken to a United States Dept. of Agriculture-approved meat processing plant in Paso Robles. Two crates of jerky were produced, resulting in 135 individual packages, which are selling for $8 each. The remainder of the beef was processed for sale as part of Shone Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. The jerky also is available at the SRJC bookstore and the Wineyard.

A USDA Farmer’s Market Promotion Program grant funded the school’s product development program. Its purpose is to teach students about how to develop and promote “value-added” agricultural products.

SRJC graphic arts department students designed the label for the olive oil. The nonprofit Shone Farm Foundation affiliated with SRJC helped support both the olive oil and beef jerky projects, and is coordinating the test marketing of the items.

For further information about the SRJC sustainable agriculture or livestock programs, log onto www.santarosa.edu.

For details about the Shone Farm Foundation, log onto www.shonefarm.com.

See you in the orchard. Bring Apples!