Fruit with a Golden Glow
Diagonally opposite Eatwell Farms' impressive and always-crowded vegetable stand at the southern entrance to the Saturday San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, you'll find the equally impressive and equally crowded fruit stand of Goldbud Farms glowing yellow umbrellas that accentuate the translucent golden glow of their fruit.
Putting Down Roots in Placerville
When Ron Mansfield, the owner/manager of Goldbud Farms, graduated from U.C. Davis in 1976 with a degree in Renewable Natural Resources, he wasn't sure where he was headed career-wise. He spent the first few years out of school working as a seasonal harvest hand, picking tomatoes and pears, before an opportunity came up to work at the University of California's Extension Service based in Placerville (in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains) doing research on farming-related problems.
He fell in love with Placerville and was determined to find a way he could stay there. Fortunately, that opportunity came when a friend from southern California agreed to co-invest with Ron to start a fruit orchard operation. They bought a small run-down orchard and began replanting, first cherries then expanding into other stone fruits. Today, Ron owns a 50-acre orchard and also manages an additional 200 acres. The farm consists of 90 acres of apples, 60 acres of wine grapes, and 20 acres each of cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines and pears.
A Well-Laid Out Schedule
With reasonable predictability about the harvest time of his fruits, Ron has developed a comprehensive schedule of what his customers at the Market can expect throughout the year. But you'll rarely see Ron at the Market. He works a 7-day week on the farm during the harvest season -- picking and packing fruit to ship to wholesalers and preparing direct mail-orders.
You will find on average 4 different types of fruit at their stand every Saturday throughout the year, except for a brief period in March and April when there is no fruit to harvest from Goldbud's Sierra foothills orchards.
Here's an indispensable guide to Goldbud's seasons:
May 20 - May 25
June 25 - July 5
July 5 - July 20
Late Le Grand
July 5- July 20
July 5 - July 15
Sept 5 - Dec 20
Thriving in Mountain Air and Mountain Soil
Ron's 250 acres extend across different elevations of the foothills, ranging from 2,800 ft. to 3,000 ft. and are volcanic soil which is rich in minerals. He claims that these gifts of Mother Nature give him 3 advantages over most other Northern California fruit growers who are concentrated in lower elevations, closer to sea-level where the soil is alluvial:
Goldbud's Extensive Scope
Ron estimates that about 50% of his crop is sold in the greater San Francisco Bay Area through a combination of 2-3 farmers' markets and wholesale channels. The other 50% is sold throughout the U.S. and is exported through wholesalers.
Most of it is sold fresh. Only a very small portion of his fruit is processed: cherries are made into a sauce, various fruits are dried and apples are made into juice.
Goldbud's Philosophy: "Eat It as Soon as
you Buy It"
We've find that almost all the fruit we buy at the Market is perfectly ripe and doesn't have a long shelf-life. Ron confirms our observations: "Goldbud's fruit is picked within one day of perfect maturity so you have about 3 days to enjoy it at the peak of ripeness."
Don't Miss These Gems
I've discovered that Goldbud offers a few very special items that aren't available generally available elsewhere in the Market. These items aren't featured at the Goldbud stand because the crop is small, so you'll have to keep an eye out for them. These include: Seckel Pears, Concord Grapes, and Quince.
Goldbud's self-service "tasting corner" is an easy way for customers to take a sneak preview of what's available that week.
West Coast Cherry Pit Spitting Championships: On Father's Day weekend sponsored by Goldbud Farms. Everyone is welcomed.
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