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Apple Hill welcomes fall visitors, navigates challenges

Crowds flock to Apple Hill on the first weekend of fall
Crowds flock to Apple Hill on the first weekend of fall 01:49

CAMINO – Threats of wildfires and extreme weather are some of the challenges El Dorado County growers have dealt with in recent years.

Breathtaking views of vineyards and orchards captured can also show how fragile the landscape is at times.

"A farmer is by far the greatest gambler on the face of the earth because they deal with mother nature," said Chris Delfino, owner of Delfino Farms. "She controls everything."

He is also the president of the Apple Hill Growers Association.

In the years his family has lived on this land, they have had to learn how to adapt to the ever-changing environment too.

Apple Hill Growers sign

"You're going to have years like we've had the last three years," Delfino said.

In 2021, smoke from the Caldor Fire ruined crops. A dry spell at the beginning of 2022 only worsened the ongoing drought. The year also brought frost and hail that damaged fruit. In September, smoke from the Mosquito Fire kept visitors away.

Grandpa's Cellar said despite the hurdles, it has managed to deliver autumn flavors of apple and pumpkin.

"That's what's going to happen every year, right? There's always something," said Jericho Kelsey, owner of the orchard.

Growers say when another farmer feels the wrath of mother nature, the community bands together.

This might mean buying from one another to stay afloat. Sometimes, veteran farmers show new farmers the ropes as the Kelseys have experienced since taking over Grandpa's Cellar in 2020.

"It is a very strong community up here," Becka Kelsey said.

The farmers are competitors, but they adopted this mindset in recent years to preserve their community.

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