Celebrating Sonoma’s ‘other crop’: The Gravenstein Apple Fair returns Aug. 13 and 14. | Home and Garden

Sonoma County Farm Trails is celebrating the return of the Gravenstein Apple Fair, “the sweetest fair in Sonoma County,” on Aug. 13 and 14, at Ragle Ranch Regional Park.

Since 1973, Sonoma County Farm Trails has produced this country fair and music festival, its primary annual fundraiser, in August during peak Gravenstein season. 

The heart of the fair is Sonoma’s celebrated heirloom apple tied, praised by horticulturist Luther Burbank as “the most exceptional apple of all for flavor and versatility.”

The apple’s fleeting seasonal window will be showcased to sample and purchase fresh apples, pies, juice, cider, fritters, caramel apples and more.

In addition to the apples, the fair presents a lineup of local musicians, artists, crafters, chefs, farmers, ranchers and artisan producers. The weekend event includes activities for kids, farm demonstrations, all in a bucolic setting with plenty of farm animals to visit.

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The Gravenstein Apple Fair hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Ragle Ranch Regional Park, 500 Ragle Road, Sebastopol.

Tickets are $18 general for ages 13 and older, and $10 for ages 6-12. VIP tickets are $125 for adults and $50 for ages 6 to 12. Advance tickets may be purchased at tickettailor.com/events/sonomacountyfarmtrails/669650.

A zero-waste goal 

Organizers of this year’s Gravenstein Apple Fair have set an ambitious goal for producing zero waste that will end up in the landfill. They have already come close to reaching this goal in previous events.

The Green Committee of the fair plans is to reduce the amount of plastic used and maximize the amount of reusable items and organics that are  compostable.

Guests at the Gravenstein Apple Fair will taste local wines, hard ciders, micro brews and fresh pressed ciders in glassware that will be washed in a commercial dishwasher after use.

Guests are also encouraged to bring a reusable beverage container that can be filled with water at stations throughout the fair.

Food vendors will serve their creations in truly compostable service ware from World Centric, a Sonoma County company focused on elevating the awareness of global sustainability issues.

The fair foods will use metal utensils that will also be washed in a commercial dishwasher after use.

To dispose of used food items, guests will find several eco stations where a volunteer will help guide them as to which items go into which bin — no more guessing.

All food waste from the fair will be distributed to local pig farms, making some local pigs very happy.

The apple

Known as Sonoma County’s “other crop,” Gravs, as they are affectionately called, ripen in late July. One of North America’s earliest apples on the market Gravensteins often signal the beginning of each year’s harvest season.

Depending on the degree of ripeness, the versatile Gravs can be used for apple sauce, apple pies, and other baked goods; and they are also great for munching.

According to sonomacounty.com, it was long believed that Russian fur trappers at Fort Ross brought the Gravenstein apple to Sonoma County around 1812 but “evidence indicates that Gravs might have arrived even earlier, brought north from New Spain by the Spaniards.”

Prolific producers, the apples were planted widely in Sonoma County in the mid-1800s. They thrived especially in the cool summers and sandy soil around Sebastopol. Eventually they were shipped nationwide by the train as a major component in Sonoma County’s commerce.

Gravenstein production had begun to decline due to suburban development and conversion of orchards to vineyards, but today the apples’ popularity is rebounding as consumers search for tasty, local varieties of produce.

Because of their soft skin Gravs are now considered difficult to ship as fresh fruit for great distances, so the best place to find them is in Sonoma County through mid-August at farmers markets, roadside produce stands and grocery stores that feature local produce — and at the annual Gravenstein Apple Fair. 

For more information about the fair, visit GravensteinAppleFair.com.

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