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Bastille Day Feast Offers Guests A Personal Tour Of The Historic Wolfskill Ranch

June 24, 2016

The Fifth Annual Winters Farm to School Bastille Day Feast will be held once again at the historic Wolfskill Ranch on Saturday, July 9th. The Wolfskill Ranch has a long and fascinating history and this year’s Bastille Day Feast guests will have the opportunity to learn more about this treasure in our own back yard. 
 
The University of California at Davis (UCD) acquired the Wolfskill property in 1938 and since then the majority of land has been used for plant breeding and cultivar evaluation projects. In 1980 the Department of Pomology and UCD signed a long-term lease agreement with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to establish the orchards of the National Clonal Germplasm Repository at Wolfskill. 
 
Guests of this year’s feast will have the special opportunity to learn about research efforts being conducted at Wolfskill by both UCD and the USDA. 
 
The day’s activities will begin in the orchards. In partnership with the UCD Department of Plant Sciences, a one-hour Walking Tour through the Wolfskill Experimental Orchard will be offered to Bastille Day Feast guests. Those wishing to participate in the Walking Tour should contact Cathy Olsen at 530-795-6109 prior to July 1st. Participants will meet at the feast registration table at 10:30 a.m. and should wear comfortable walking shoes and a hat for sun protection. 
 
Leading the Experimental Orchards part of the tour will be Katherine Pope, Area Orchard Systems Advisor for Sacramento, Solano and Yolo Counties, covering production research, education and assistance with almonds, prunes and walnuts. Pope graduated from UCD in 2013 with a PhD in Horticulture and Agronomy and a Masters in International Agricultural Development. In her part of the tour, Pope will discuss issues related to fertilizer and irrigation, selection of the right kinds of trees for a grower’s conditions and how orchards may respond to climate change. 
 
A member of the UCD Plant Sciences strawberry breeding program will also show some of the germplasm from the Wolfskill collection (approximately 1,700 genotypes). This includes historically important material, cultivars, wild species and assorted other accessions. Some of these collections will be used to develop new and improved strawberry cultivars. 
 
Following the Walking Tour, aperitifs and drinks will start being served at 11:30 a.m. under the giant pecan tree that graces the Wolfskill property and is perfect for both shade and conversation. Once everyone is gathered, Dr. John Preece will share with guests the rich history of Wolfskill and the work conducted there by  the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Dr. Preece, is the Research Leader for the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository  located at Wolfskill.  The plant gene bank is a living library of thousands of genetically different stone fruits, grapes, walnuts, pistachios, persimmons, olives, pomegranate, figs and kiwifruit. Researchers from around the world come to visit the Wolfskill site. 
  
The multi-course feast will follow aperitifs. Guests are seated at one long table nestled under the 150-year old olive trees that line the driveway at the Wolfskill Ranch. The delicious feast features all local foods and drink donated by Yolo County farmers, wineries and breweries. The feast has become a real celebration of Yolo County agriculture. 
 
The Bastille Day Feast is Winters Farm to School’s annual fundraiser. An all-volunteer effort, all monies raised at the feast go toward the purchase of fresh, local fruits, nuts and produce for our school district’s meal programs. In past years, Winters Farm to School has raised from $35,000 to $50,000 at the Bastille Day Feast.  
 
Tickets for the feast are $100 per person and must be purchased in advance. Tickets can be purchased at ACE Hardware in Winters, on-line at brownpapertickets.com or by calling Cathy Olsen at 530-795-6109. Tickets have sold out every year, so those wishing to attend are encouraged to purchase their tickets soon. 

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