On Saturday, September 28, the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project held their annual apple harvest and cider pressing party at the Live Oak Grange located at 1900 17th Avenue in Live Oak.
By 10 a.m., people started arriving at the grange, eager to harvest and make juice. Some people began preparing apples straightaway, while the rest of the group split up to harvest more apples from two different locations.
One group harvested apples from a location close to the grange, while the other group caravanned to an old orchard in Soquel. The orchard belongs to Farmer Bill, who previously owned and operated a pear orchard in the Santa Clara Valley.
Like so much of the Santa Clara Valley, also known as Silicon Valley, Bill’s pear orchard was consumed by urbanization. The valley was previously known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight for its high concentration of orchards, flowering trees, and plants. Until the 1960s it was the largest fruit production and packing region in the world.
The Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project is an important component of revitalizing both knowledge and appreciation for harvesting and processing the abundance of fruit which grows so well throughout Santa Cruz County.
The apple crusher and cider press were both constructed in part by Steve Schnaar, the project’s founder and key organizer. The apple crusher is pedal-powered, and the design was inspired by similar bicycle-powered machines which Schnaar learned about while traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico, as well as Guatemala.
Participants, including a large family from Antioch, which traveled two-hours each way, arrived ready to work, but also motivated to haul home tubs of whole apples for processing and jugs of fresh juice for drinking or fermenting into hard cider.
As a small contribution to sustaining the project, participants are asked to make a suggested donation of $5-10 per person at each event, or purchase a yearly membership at a sliding-scale rate of $35-100.
For more information on the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project, including upcoming harvests and other events, please visit the group’s website at: FruitCruz.org
For previous coverage of the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project, check out: