Paula Shatkin and her husband were driving along Sonoma County’s scenic back roads when she first noticed something was amiss.
“We saw apple orchards in bloom just being chopped down, willy-nilly, everywhere,” said Shatkin.
That was 18 years ago, right when vineyards were booming and apple farmers were having trouble making ends meet. The iconic Gravenstein had transformed west Sonoma County into one of the world’s premier apple growing regions. In the booming 1940s, nearly 15,000 acres in the county were planted with apple trees. By 2016, that number had fallen to about 2,200 acres.
“Whole orchards were being chopped down and made into vineyards, without a lot of work being done to make sure they weren’t damaging the ecosystem,” said Shatkin. “We were losing our biodiversity.”