Walking tour of historic Wolfskill Ranch offered at Summer Solstice Feast

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Winters Farm to School will host a Summer Solstice Feast on Saturday, June 23. The feast will be held under the canopy of 157-year old olive trees lining the drive at the historic Wolfskill Ranch on the south side of Putah Creek.

The Wolfskill Ranch has a long and fascinating history that weaves into the greater story of California becoming a state and Winters becoming our beloved little town. Today Wolfskill is a top-notch research facility housing both the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences Experimental Orchards and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Clonal Germplasm Repository.

Every year, guests of the Farm to School feast have had the opportunity to learn more about all of the work being conducted at Wolfskill – innovative work which draws visiting scholars from around the world.

This year, in partnership with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, a one-hour Walking Tour of the Wolfskill Experimental Orchards is being offered to Summer Solstice Feast guests. The tour will start at Wolfskill at 10:30 a.m. and will be led by Dr. Brad Hanson, Extension Weed Specialist with the UCD Plant Science Department. Dr. Hanson will talk about the breadth of research, extension and teaching that the Department of Plant Sciences (and its legacy departments like Pomology) contributes to the local, regional and world agricultural economies. Walking through the Experimental Orchards, Dr. Hanson will point out representative fields containing germplasm collections from several important tree fruits, as well as the major research programs that use the Wolfskill facility (peach/almond breeding, prune/plum breeding, strawberry breeding programs), and some of the smaller or less-frequent users of plantings at the site.

Walking Tour participants must have a ticket to the Summer Solstice Feast. Tickets are $125 per person. Tickets are available at ACE Hardware on Main Street in Winters, online at www.wintersfarmtoschool.com or by calling 530-795-6109.

Those guests participating in the Walking Tour are encouraged to bring comfortable walking shoes and a hat for sun protection.

For those feast guests who chose not to take part in the one-hour Walking Tour, there will still be the opportunity for guests to learn about the rich history of the Wolfskill Ranch from Dr. John Preece, Research Leader of the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository. At every past feast, Dr. Preece has told some of the stories of John Wolfskill, the founder of the Wolfskill Ranch, and how John Wolfskill’s early vision for the property still holds such a claim on the horticultural work being done there today.

Another slice of Wolfskill’s history will come in the form of a special auction item donated by Dr. Preece and his wife, Susan. They are donating a framed copy of an old, but undated, land sales advertisement. Called the Susan Wolfskill 1000 Acre Subdivision of the Wolfskill Grant near the town of Winters, the colorful advertisement includes a hand-drawn map showing the various 20 to 60 acre parcels available, as well as surrounding parcels (with owners named) already developed and the small town of Winters across Putah Creek. Flowing, written captions on the advertisement describe it as “a land of fruit and flowers with soil specially adapted to the raising of the very earliest fruits and vegetables. The price: $30 per acre.”

Susan Wolfskill (1827-1906), a member of the Donner Party, was John Wolfskill’s second wife, who he married in 1860. Susan gave birth to several children and many of their descendants are today still connected with the town of Winters. Susan died in Winters in 1906 and is buried in the Winters Cemetery along with her husband, John Wolfskill. For anyone interested in Winters history and especially our rich, agricultural history, this auction item will long be cherished.

For further information about the Summer Solstice Feast or Winters Farm to School, please call 530-795-6109.

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