The climate of Sonoma County, in California, is ideal for growing the Gravenstein apple which is venerated by the inhabitants of Sebastopol, whose streets, festivals and schools are dedicated once a year to a parade that celebrates the blossoming of the apple trees. The apple is crisp with a sweet yet tart flavor and a greenish-yellow skin with red patches. It ripens at the beginning of August and can be eaten fresh, or processed into apple juice and desserts. Once, more than 7,000 acres of land in Sonoma County were planted with Gravenstein apple orchards, but now just under 900 are left. The causes of the serious decline in this apple variety – introduced to the county in 1811 by Russian trappers – are many. They are delicate and don’t ship well, they are early, when many people are still eating sweet stone fruits, and there is serious competition in the U.S. from imported Chinese apple juice concentrate. What’s more, many orchards have been replaced by vineyards, which are more profitable. In the United States this County is a stronghold of the movement for sustainable agriculture, but it is hard for the local community to maintain agricultural biodiversity because of the high production costs and the fact that there are many middle-men. Despite the importance of the Gravenstein, only few producers still grow them commercially. One of the farms of the Presidium, which has been operating since 1979, is run by the Kolling family, which grows and picks by hand organic Gravensteins and 25 other indigenous apple varieties. Like other apple farmers, they turn the apples into juices, cider and vinegar that are sold to a local bakery and nearby restaurants.
Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California
Presidium supported by
Russian River Slow Food Convivium
Roots of Change
Risk Management Agency of the U.S Dept of Agriculture
Tel. +1 7078763221