Embracing the dry June heat of San Joaquin County is a small price to pay when exploring the grounds of Lagier Ranches. This 120-acre family-run farm in Escalon, CA, is rich in trees and small fruits: almond trees, grapes, table grapes, citrus, and cherries. Keep your eyes peeled for their Bronx grapes in some of The FruitGuys’ summer mixes.
Run by fourth-generation farmer John Lagier and his wife, Casey Havre, the land exudes a sense of historic character. From a newly adopted mini donkey named Pinocchio to chickens, kitties, hummingbirds, and Bing, a huge white dog who resembles Falkor the Luck Dragon from The NeverEnding Story, Lagier Ranches’ land hums with life. Casey jokes that Pinocchio the donkey will probably stick around long enough that the couple will have to bequeath him in their will.
This appreciation for the land and animals is a reflection of Lagier Ranches’ mission statement: “Lagier Ranches provides quality food from the soil to the consumer. We recognize our responsibility as a steward of the earth. This value is reflected in environmentally conscious use of water, energy, and other resources with our organic farming practices. We are a socially responsible organization based on a sound ethic of fairness to customers, employees, regulatory agencies, and our community.”
Lagier Ranches applied to The FruitGuys Community Fund for a grant to plant a hedgerow along their property that would attract pollinators. A $2,500 grant was awarded in 2014 to fund the hedgerow project. The quarter-mile-long hedgerow corridor provides a home for bees, rabbits, snakes, and other wildlife. These creatures would otherwise not have a place to live in the surrounding urban areas.
“I’d been wanting to plant a hedgerow because, look—it’s industrial agriculture around here. I really felt like it needed to be a place for all the little creatures,” Casey says. She notes that most of the pollination at the farm is achieved with the help of the bees that are drawn to the hedgerow. Today, this new ecosystem consists of 354 plants bordering a 39-acre almond orchard. The plant diversity ensures that something is in bloom all year round.
“Our job is to leave it better than we found it,” Casey says. “So if it’s through farming or improving it with sustainable practices with the hedgerows, then that’s my job. Prettier, more fertile, more abundant with animals and bugs. To leave it better.”
Meet Casey and Pinocchio here, and have a look at Lagier Ranches’ famous hedgerow.
Shannan Slevin is the video and program content provider for The FruitGuys. She is a certified nutrition and health coach and is trained in pilates and yoga. A California native residing in Oakland, Shannan lives for fresh air and dance floors.