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PlacerGROWN: The Snows know citrus

Snow family named 2011 Farmer of the Year by PlacerGROWN
By: Karen Killebrew
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One of the greatest pleasures of the annual PlacerGROWN Food & Farm Conference, which was recently held at Lincoln High School, is to present the Farmer of the Year award. Each year a local farmer or family is recognized for significant contributions to Placer County’s agricultural community, not only through their own successes, but also through leading by example. Larry and Ralene Show purchased a home on two and a half acres on Powerhouse Road in Newcastle in 1974. Larry, an Air Force test pilot, was stationed at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento at the time, but looking ahead to retirement. Soon after acquiring the property, daughters Tiffany and Tshandy fell in love with the mandarins they found on untended trees while riding horses in the neighborhood. This set Ralene and Larry on a mission to create a mandarin grove on the star thistle covered acreage that became their first home away from a military base. While several local families had been growing mandarins and other citrus in the county for some time, a local source of trees was hard to find. The Snows purchased their first few trees from Angelo’s Nursery in Penryn, and after several years of repeatedly visiting Fowler’s Nursery were finally able to purchase 100 mandarin trees. In 1979 they harvested their first crop and started building a market for their fruit. By the early 1990s they realized that with such a short season, they needed to find ways to extend the season to create a year-round business. At about the same time, the agricultural community recognized a need for an agricultural marketing organization and PlacerGROWN was born. Ralene Snow became the organization’s market development coordinator, organizing workshops to help the county’s producers find new markets for their products. Ralene’s mandarin orange syrup, a popular feature at Newcastle Firemen’s pancake breakfasts and early Mountain Mandarin Festivals, became one of their first commercial products. Today they market nine mandarin sauces and marinades, all made in Auburn. Today daughter Tshandy and her husband Bob Bonk share responsibilities with Ralene and Larry. They have brought important contributions to the family business, as Tshandy manages the website, and Bob has become very involved in the Foothill Farmers Market Association, currently serving as board president. Today the Snows’ small acreage is a highly productive grove of mandarins, navel and blood oranges, lemons, limes, kumquats and a few experimental varieties. They have achieved their goal of a year-round business, with a well-developed customer list and products that are staples at stores, restaurants and farmers markets in Placer County and beyond. But more than anything, what shines through is the Snows’ pride in what they’ve accomplished and their plans for the future. “We get much more than we give,” says Ralene Snow. PlacerGROWN is happy to extend this recognition to the Snow family as 2011 Farm Family of the year. Karen Killebrew is the president of the board of directors for PlacerGROWN, Placer County’s agricultural marketing organization. Contact Karen at karen@naturemedia.net.