In 2017 the Elkhorn Ranch, which is located along the Sacramento River and Yolo Bypass, was hit hard by floodwaters from the Oroville Dam spillover. The Art & Ag Project had the privilege of visiting this walnut orchard in May 2018 when the last remnants of the upturned walnut trees still dotted the landscape.
Elkhorn Ranch is owned by the Yolo Land Trust who will keep the ranch in farming forever. At the time of the 2017 flood, most of the Ranch was leased to Garcia Farms, a family farming operation owned and operated by Jose Garcia and his son Ricardo. Garcia Farms was managing nearly 400 acres of walnut trees at the Elkhorn Ranch in 2017. Portions of the walnut orchard had been planted by Jose in the 1970’s, and Ricardo grew up there helping his dad.
YoloArts checked in with Michele Clark, Executive Director of the Yolo Land Trust and Ricardo Garcia to see how things are going today.
What is the status of Garcia Farms two years later?
Michele: After the Oroville Dam failed, the result was that a lot of farms along the Sacramento River flooded, including ours. We lost over 14,000 productive walnut trees as a result of the late water that was released from Oroville. We lost significant revenue to keep our organization working on permanently protecting farmland. More importantly, Garcia Farms lost most of the walnut trees they were harvesting.
Ricardo: Everyone is pushing forward. We were able to rehabilitate part of the orchard and still grow walnuts on half of the property we now have. We also received a grant from NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service) which paid for a micro jet irrigation system for the walnuts.
The fields now have corn and safflower as well as some young walnut trees which are just starting to have the little buds. These are the first days where things are starting be on the green side.
Our sheepherder Deyvus is still here. He has his sheep on another property up the road.
How is everyone at Garcia Farms and the Yolo Land Trust doing since Covid-19?
Ricardo: My father Jose and my family are doing okay. I’m on the tractor by myself most days and thank goodness we’re in farming because we are considered an essential service. It’s my two year wedding anniversary in a few weeks. We will be celebrating indoors.
Michele: We are all working from home. We are all hoping to continue to have Day in the Country in September to celebrate all of the farms and locally grown food.
Thoughts about the Art & Ag Project?
Ricardo: Having the artists out to our farm was a positive experience for us. We were going through a tough time and we were happy to see everyone appreciating the beauty of the outdoors and the nature of farming.
Michele: The Art & Ag Project is a great partnership and collaboration I truly appreciate that we get to highlight farms in Yolo County showcased by all of the artists. I always enjoy seeing the farmers at the auction when they see for the first time how an artist has perceived and portrayed their farm.
The Yolo Land Trust has been an Art & Ag Project partner since 2006 when the project began. Their mission is simple and vital: to permanently conserve farmland in Yolo County. Now, more than ever, farmland is essential to our wellbeing and our shared way of life. YoloArts is proud to continue our collaboration with the Yolo Land Trust who has introduced hundreds of artists to local farming families and helped cultivate connections and appreciation for the beauty and importance of farming in our county.
Each year when we schedule our monthly Art & Ag Project farm visits, we make it a priority to include a farm with a Yolo Land Trust easement with the help of Executive Director, Michele Clark. This allows the artists to learn about the Yolo Land Trust and the farmers a chance to share their life and work on their individual farms.
Learn more about the Yolo Land Trust HERE
Learn more about the Art & Ag Project HERE