Climb into the pickup with us as we tour the “home ranch” — which was originally purchased by our great grandfather, P.F. Barton, in 1912. Comfortable? Great! Off we go…
The first thing you’ll notice is a small home near the ranch office just after you enter the property. This was the home of P.F.’s son and daughter-in-law, Paul and Alice Barton. They raised their two sons, Hugh and Jerry in this home, and it still stands proudly. It has housed at least three different families of Bartons through its history and is a living testament to the family’s roots on this land and our heritage as farmers.
As we drive to the top of the bluff, you can see the orchards spread out below us. The ranch is planted on some of the finest soil in California. Why is it so special? It’s river bottom soil, deposited over thousands of years by the Stanislaus River which flows through the property. It’s ideal for growing walnut trees. It is deep, well-drained, and rich in nutrients. As you look to the east, you can see the foothills and on a clear day you can see the mighty Sierra Nevada Mountains rising majestically beyond. It’s one of the great perks of working on the ranch.
By the way, you may have noticed that we call our business the “Barton Ranch” as opposed to the “farm” or the “grove” or some other moniker. Most people think of a “ranch” as a place where cattle are raised. But here in California, a ranch refers to just about any agricultural endeavor whether we’re raising cattle, oranges, olives, almonds or walnuts! For the Bartons, “Walnuts R Us”. It’s all we grow, and we’ve been at it for nearly a hundred years now. And one more thing about our use of the word “ranch”. Here in California, you don’t have to have a huge spread in order for this term to apply to your property. There are lots of 40-acre ranches here. The one commonality is that every farmer loves his land and tries his best to be a good steward of it. As our mom often says “God isn’t going to make any more of it, so we’d better take good care of what we have.”
As we drive down the hill into the orchards, we’re surrounded by lush foliage. It’s shady here on the orchard floor, and much cooler than when we were up on the bluff exposed to the California sun. And it’s here as we look into the interior of the trees with the sunlight dappled through the branches that we get a hint of what kind of walnut crop we hope to have when harvest comes. We look to see how large the nuts are on the trees, and we try to get a feel for how many “doubles” we see. (We get especially excited about seeing lots of “triples”, though those come less frequently.)
Let’s drive a little further down the road to a single, very special tree. It’s the only one like it on the entire ranch. The “Grandfather Tree” was planted in 1913 by P.F. Barton as part of his original planting of walnuts on the ranch. It’s the only survivor from that original planting, and it’s one of the largest walnut trees in America. It’s healthy, thriving, and still productive after all of these years. And, as you might imagine, it gets a lot of tender loving care and personal attention from our family members. It is like the little house back at the entrance to the ranch a constant reminder of our beginnings, of all the hard work of generations of Bartons and many wonderful and dedicated employees who have labored to make this ranch the special place it is.