meet the farmer

FOR THE LOVE OF FAMILY

Twin Peaks Orchards is elevating the legacy of the family farm.

WRITTEN BY COLIN JOSEPH GOULDING
PHOTOS BY CANDISS KOENITZER

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The Enriquez family grows many different fruits on many different trees. From peaches and nectarines to Amagaki persimmons and Satsuma mandarins, the groves of Twin Peaks Orchards are a study in the diversity of what the Sierra Nevada foothills can sustain. Raul Enriquez has planted so many varieties on the rolling hills of his family’s property in Newcastle that the orchard only has one six-week window of the year in which no fruit is in need of harvest.

“When we started in 1975, I knew nothing,” Enriquez says. “Little by little, I learned a bit, but I would need another 100 years to learn everything.”

Venerable roots

The lands of Twin Peaks Orchards first knew cultivation in 1912, when the step-grandparents of Raul’s wife, Sheila Enriquez, first planted strawberries between rows of pear, plum, and quince trees on the land along State Route 193. Responsibility for the farm and family passed to Sheila’s stepfather, then-14-year-old Howard Nakae, when his father was hit by a car and died in the 1940s.

Raul and Sheila married in Mexico City in 1969, and in 1975, Nakae called and asked for help with the farm. The Enriquezes returned to Newcastle and had to learn everything about working on a farm. Raul started learning from his stepfather-in-law at 5 a.m. the morning after arriving at Twin Peaks Orchards.

“My dad worked alongside my grandfather, and all those years my grandfather was imparting all of his wisdom and information and skill and knowledge to my mom and dad,” says Camelia Enriquez Miller, one of Raul and Sheila’s five children, who lives on the farm with her husband and children. “My mom was actively working in all parts, raising kids, supporting my dad, who was doing nonstop farming seven days a week with my grandfather—”

“No, no,” Raul interrupts jokingly, “nine days a week!”

The orchards, where some 100-year-old trees grow today, indicate the long history of the farm. The Amagaki persimmon, a varietal developed by Nakae and exclusive to Twin Peaks Orchard, had been growing for decades before Raul and Sheila took over. The astringent Amagaki can be savored while still fresh due to a specialized curing process that removes the astringency of the fruit. The versatile varietal also shines in baked goods and other recipes.

Wandering through the hills of the orchard, you can see pomology, the science of growing fruit, in action, with ancient trees butting up against stands of new saplings. Citrus trees abound, with ripe Satsuma mandarins and Meyer lemons awaiting harvest by the thousands. One of the rarer fruits produced on the property is the tiny jujube; this small, starchy fruit ripens to burnished brown and tastes similar to an apple.

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A bountiful house

Today, Raul and Sheila stand atop a farming enterprise of children, cousins, and grandchildren; they plant, grow, harvest, pack, and ship all of their own fruit on the property. Along with Camelia, two of her other four siblings, Alondra and Raul Valente, helped adapt their business to provide family-farm-quality fruit to grocery stores and farmers’ markets. While meeting the regulations and packing standards set by industrial-scale agribusiness, they still pick and pack by hand to maintain the quality of the fruit. It’s quite a lot of work.

“When we started to look for other customers, the only way to do it was to have a better quality,” Raul says. “We have a lot of competition, and we have to go against the big farmer. That’s why sometimes when they ask me, ‘How many hours do you work a day?’ I say, ‘26, 25, or something.’”

While many family farms struggled to meet the changing requirements of large distribution companies, Twin Peaks Orchards capitalized on the food manufacturing expertise of Camelia’s husband, Justin Miller, to develop food safety practices and packing standards in line with those of much larger competitors. With Alondra heading up the packing shed, Raul Valente delivering produce, and Camelia advertising and working farmers’ markets, their efforts have kept the Enriquez family farming and expanding into the enterprise it is today. They continue to adapt to the expectations of a modernizing world.

“We as farmers can’t just be farmers anymore. We have to be educators, we have to be marketers, we have to spend the time to go out and meet with our customers and try different varieties,” Camelia says. “I think it’s now the farmers’ responsibility to not just be farmers anymore. It’s really [their] responsibility to talk to people and educate them.”

Because of its location in the foothills, expect Twin Peaks Orchards fruits to arrive in stores and at farmers’ markets about two weeks behind fruit coming from the valley floor. Look for its handpicked, tree-ripened fruit at area grocery stores and farmers’ markets from Sacramento to Tahoe City.

The Enriquez family welcomes visitors to their seasonal farm stand on the property, where you can pick up their famed Amagakis and Satsumas. When the farm stand is closed, they’re happy to welcome guests, but take your mother’s advice and drop them a line before dropping in.

Colin Joseph Goulding is a cook and baker who has refused to go pro. When not working as an analyst at the University of California, Davis, he spends his free time cultivating Musquee de Provence pumpkins and yuzus in the front yard of his home in West Sacramento.

Resources

Where to find Twin Peaks Orchards products

Twin Peaks retail sales/wholesale

6105 Lincoln-Newcastle Hwy., Newcastle

916-346-5569

For details about seasonal hours and more, visit Twinpeaksent.com

Products are distributed to Sacramento and Placer County restaurants through Produce Express. For details, visit Produceexpress.net

Purchase retail items in the following stores

Corti Brothers

Sacramento • Cortibrothers.com

Whole Foods Market in Roseville and Northern California

Wholefoodsmarket.com

Nugget Markets

All Sacramento-area stores • Nuggetmarket.com

Select Raley’s stores

Raleys.com

SPD Markets

Spdmarket.com

Mother Truckers

Find Mother Truckers on Facebook.

Natural Selection Food & Wine

Find Natural Selection Food & Wine on Facebook.

Newcastle Produce

Newcastleproduce.com

Sacramento, Placer County, Lake Tahoe, and Truckee farmers’ markets

Schedule available at Twinpeaksent.com/farmersmarkets.htm

Products available

Amagaki, apples, Asian pears, blood oranges, cara cara oranges, clementines, grapefruits, jujubes, mandarinquats, Meyer lemons, nectarines, peaches, persimmons, plums, pluots, pomelos, Satsuma mandarins, tangerines

Recipe

Persimmon Cookies

(courtesy of the Enriquez family. Makes 24 cookies)

½ cup shortening

1 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup persimmon pulp (hachiya variety)

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cloves

½ cup raisins (optional)

½ cup chopped nuts (optional, baker’s choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In bowl of stand mixer, cream together shortening, light brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until light.

In small bowl, mix baking soda into persimmon pulp until well combined.

Add persimmon and baking soda mixture to bowl of stand mixer. Mix on low speed until combined. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again on low speed until mixture is uniform.

Sift flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves directly into stand mixer bowl and mix on low speed until combined. Mix in raisins and nuts (if using) on low speed until evenly incorporated.

Drop rounded teaspoons of cookie dough onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until done

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