Winters Farm to School Annual Summer Feast raises over $54,600 for local students

The funds raised at the event will go toward supporting school programs throughout the year.
The table decorations at the Winters Farm to School Annual Summer Feast in June of 2019. (Emma Johnson/Winters Express)

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Winters Farm to School raised over $54,600 at their eighth Annual Summer Feast. Two hundred and sixty guests gathered on Saturday, June 22 at the historic Wolfskill Ranch to enjoy an afternoon filled with food and drink donated by local farmers, breweries and wineries.

“We’ve always enjoyed the agricultural setting at the Wolfskill Ranch, as it helps bring home the farm to school connection” said Cathy Olsen, a founding member of Winters Farm to School and Food Services Director for the Winters Joint Unified School District. “Having one long table set beneath the canopy of 160-year old olive trees lining the driveway at Wolfskill reminds us of the rich agricultural history in this area. John Wolfskill planted those olive trees himself. He was one of the first settlers here to plow the ground and plant crops, some never seen in this area before.”

The Wolfskill Ranch has a long history that weaves into the greater story of California becoming a state and Winters becoming such an agricultural hub. Today the ranch is a topnotch research facility housing both the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences Experimental Orchards and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Clonal Germplasm Repository.

As in past year’s guests for the feast had the opportunity to learn more about the history of Wolfskill, both the man and the land. Guests were invited to participate in a 30 minute walking tour of the UC Davis Experimental Orchards led by Dr. Brad Hanson. Hanson spoke of the breadth of research, extension and teaching that the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences contributes to the local, regional and world agricultural economies. Scholars from around the world visit these orchards to learn more about the important work happening there.

Dr. John Preece, director of the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository, was also on hand to share some of the history of the Wolfskill property and family history. This year guests learned that when Wolfskill first started working the land there he had to tie himself onto tall trees at night to keep away from grizzly bears and cougars that were prevalent at that time.

Of course there is also a big focus on the food served at the feast. Emarie VanGalio, a board member of Winters Farm to School and director of operations for Buckhorn Catering (which prepares the feast), works with the Buckhorn’s chef to create a menu that is locally-sourced and seasonally-based.

“This year because of the late rains harvest dates were pushed back, which caused us to change a few of our dishes last minute,” said VanGalio. “Fortunately, we have great working relationships with many local farmers who came through for us and provided everything we needed for a delicious feast.”

“Served family style, this year’s menu included early summer tomato panzanella, a fennel, herb and stone fruit salad, rancho gordo beans, and porchetta served with pickled rhubarb relish,” said VanGalio. “Dessert was slices of fresh apricot pie from Lester Farms Bakery. The apricots used in the pies are grown locally by Lester Farms and are one of the early varieties which John Wolfskill introduced to this area.”

“Another favorite feature of the Feast is our silent and live Auctions,” said board member Doneice Trotter. “We had over 60 items to choose from this year, all donated by local businesses, families or individuals. We had oil paintings from the recent Plein Air Festival, tickets to the Palms Playhouse, books from local authors, and gift baskets brimming with gourmet foods, wine and vintage trinkets. Our live auction items included scenic flights in a bi-plane piloted by Richard Atherton, a whole hog donated by the Yolo County Young Farmers and Ranchers, dinner for eight at Park Winters donated by John Martin and Rafael Galiano and a custom-designed steel sign which will be crafted by the Winters High School Ag Department. “

Winters Farm to School started in 2011 as a community-based movement to serve locally-grown, healthy foods to Winters school children. It has since grown into a non-profit organization raising over $50,000 per school year. All monies raised at the Feast go toward three programs: First, buying fruit and produce from Yolo County farmers which are offered at every meal served in our local schools. Second, funding a coordinator for the weekly kids farmer’s market, which provides produce to over 275 children per week at Waggoner Elementary School. And third, funding school gardens at Waggoner and Rominger Schools.

“We could never have achieved this level of success without the continued support of our community,” says Gloria Lopez, President of Winters Farm to School. “People have truly embraced our mission and come back year after year to our Feast to show their support. All of the hard work to put on the Feast is worth it though when we see the fruits of our labors … children taking second helpings of fruits and vegetables at lunch…and even asking their parents to buy vegetables at the grocery store. It has been a very rewarding experience.”

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