To celebrate the Gravenstein Apple Fair’s 50th anniversary, happening on August 12 – 13, at Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastopol, we’re highlighting the sponsors who make the Fair possible. This installment ends where we started, with the Dutton family who have been with Farm Trails and the Fair since the beginning.
Dutton Ranch – A Legacy of Growing Apples Begins
Gail Dutton’s eyes twinkle as she recalls Sonoma County in the 1960s. “I used to joke that I married a ‘prune farmer,’” she said as she talked about moving from Santa Rosa to the ranch she and husband Warren purchased in Sebastopol as young newlyweds in 1964. Gail and Warren Dutton grew apples, and wine grapes on the 35-acre property, while Warren’s family grew prunes, pears, and walnuts on their land in Santa Rosa. It wasn’t long before Gail realized that selling their produce directly to consumers was much more profitable than selling it to local canneries. So, when an organization that was dedicated to connecting Sonoma County residents and visitors to local farmstands was created, the Duttons were founding members. Farm Trails, as it was called, was started in 1973, followed by its signature fundraising event, the Gravenstein Apple Fair, later that year.
Gravenstein Apple Fair – “Back in the Day”
Gail remembers going to the first Gravenstein Apple Fair when it was held on the grounds of the Buddhist Temple in downtown Sebastopol. A few years later the Fair moved to Forestville. Ultimately the Fair ended up in its forever home – Ragle Ranch Park. At every location, the Dutton family was there to sell their Gravenstein apples; a tradition that continues some fifty years later.
Gail has many memories of her fifty years at the Fair. One of the freshest, perhaps because it was the most painful, was when she parked the family car at Ragle Ranch, on top of a beehive and found herself with bees flying up her pant legs, stinging her multiple times. She cautioned the boys to stay in the car to avoid being stung. They, being young and curious, did not.
Dutton Ranch – All About Family
Dutton Ranch has always been a family business. Gail and Warren’s sons Joe, and Steve, started working on the ranch almost as soon as they could walk. Steve remembers carrying boxes to load up Gravensteins at the Fair when he was ten years old. Today, the youngest generation of Duttons – Joe and Steve’s kids – all work at the Fair, making them the third Dutton generation to sell their Gravs to delighted fairgoers. Steve’s kids, Jake and Jordan, like their cousins – Kyndall, Kylie, and Karmen – have many fun memories of growing up at the Fair. Whether it was the Saturday night sleepover at Gail’s with their cousins, running through the hay maze, or working the Dutton apple stand, the Fair has played an important role in their summer.
Jake and Jordan are essential members of the Dutton Ranch team. Jordan, with her MBA in the wine business from Sonoma State, speaks the language of grape growing which is critical as she works with clients who purchase Dutton grapes. She’s also fluent in Spanish which allows her to move seamlessly between Spanish and English, much the way the multi-generational Dutton ranch and winery employees do. She wears many hats, working with HR, accounting, and marketing for Dutton Ranch.
Jake speaks the language of the land. As the Director of Ranch and Vineyard Development, he’s the guy who solves the puzzles of how to pull out old vines and trees to make way for the new. Plus, as Jordan pointed out about her twin, he’s the one you want to have operate the heavy agricultural machinery that’s required in modern ranching.
Ongoing Commitment to Sonoma Agriculture & the Fair
Over the years, Dutton Ranch http://duttonranch.com has continued to grow and evolve, but the Duttons have always maintained apple orchards, with 180 acres currently planted with CCOF certified organic apples. Many of the trees date back to the 1920s, with replacement plantings ongoing.
Dutton Goldfield http://duttongoldfield.com, the winery Steve operates with winemaker Dan Goldfield, focuses on handcrafted small lot Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that thrive in the cool climate of western Sonoma County. Dutton grapes can be found on 14 wine labels from 14 different producers. Given the successful expansion of their business, and the changing demands of agriculture in 2023, Steve was asked if the Fair was still relevant and why they continue to participate.
Steve, with a deadpan face, looked at his mother Gail and said, “Because Mom says we should. And you should always do what your mom tells you to.”
Gail laughed. Then she talked about why the Fair is still important. “It’s a great opportunity to highlight products from Sonoma County. Plus, it’s a wonderful event that benefits Sebastopol and the local community.”
And that’s the Dutton story – good businesspeople and even greater pillars of the Sonoma County community – since 1880; with the next generation of Duttons already following in their family’s footsteps.
Enjoy Dutton Products at the Fair
Come buy Gravenstein apples from the third generation Duttons or taste Dutton Goldfield wine at the Wine Tent. And if you’re interested in the VIP Experience, which sold out last year, Dutton Goldfield will be co-hosting the VIP Bar where guests can sample many great Dutton Goldfield wines, paired with farm-to-table bites provided by local producers.
Join the 50th Birthday Party!
The fun is happening on August 12 – 13, at the Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol!