“We truly just love sharing the bounty of our county!” exclaimed Naturally Nuts Owner John Oneto as he served samples of stuffed olives, nuts, and chile-lime and pumpkin-spice flavored almonds. His enthusiastic statement could have easily been attributed to any of the 26 local vendors in attendance at the Tulare County Farm Bureau’s Bounty of the County event on September 29.

Bounty of the County, now in its eighth year, brings the community together to celebrate Tulare County’s abundant agriculture while showcasing the Farm Bureau and the benefits of membership. The event originated as a concept of the bureau’s membership committee, and its reputation and attendance has grown each year. Committee members are active in planning the event with support from the bureau’s staff. Around 300 guests in jeans, boots, and garden attire were in attendance, arriving promptly at 6 p.m. on a beautiful evening at the Historic Seven Sycamores Ranch, ready to taste sweet and savory foods, and sample beers and wines from the county.

Tulare County Farm Bureau (TCFB) is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year. A membership-funded nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote and enhance the viability of Tulare County agriculture, the bureau acts as a bridge between local farmers and county and state policy-makers and legislators. In addition to management of legislative issues and public education, the bureau works to provide a unified voice on key issues affecting Tulare County farmers.

As part of the state-level California Farm Bureau Federation, TCFB does take political stances but is not tied to government agencies. There are currently approximately 2,000 total TCFB members who work directly in agriculture, or are businesses that do business with or support agriculture in some way.

Oneto has participated in the event every year. He values the opportunity it provides him and other merchants to showcase their locally-sourced products and connect with members of the community. As he shared his products, guests filled their plates with enough tastings of savory signature dishes and products to make an entire meal. Wood fired pizza; savory cheesecake; steak bites and sausage; bacon-wrapped dates; candied pecans; stuffed penne pasta; and Italian appetizers were generously served by All Fired Up! Pizza, E Street Market, Monet’s, Exeter Meats and Processing, Left of Center, Rosa’s Italian Ristorante, The Naked Nut, Tulare Meat Locker & Sausage Co., and Western BBQ Company.

Live music from the band Take Cover added to the country casual atmosphere. Stopping to chat on the way to their table, Vianna Del Vecchio and John Bettencourt were looking forward to sampling some of the county’s best with friends who had invited them, saying, “…we wanted to see what it’s all about and of course, support the Farm Bureau.”

Sweet treats were in abundance as well, with apple cider syrup-topped mini-apple tarts and pancakes; dried blueberries, blueberry treats and sauces; petit fours, raspberry almond cakes and pecan pie squares; ice cream bars; caramel corn; ice cream sundaes and coffee milk; and cookies, banana, lemon and marbled quick breads provided by Ciderhouse Foods, Critchley Family Farms, Goodies Cookies, Häagen-Dazs, Puffed Perfection, Rosa Brothers Milk Company, and The Cookie Box.

A wide variety of local craft beers and California wines ensured delicious pairings with all of the dishes. Wine sponsors Farm Credit West and Mitchell Insurance Services supplied multiple labels including San Simeon; Barefoot Wines, Cacciatore Fine Wine and Olive Oil Corp. also poured their signature varietals. Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company sampled their craft brews, and Component Coffee Lab (slated to open in downtown Visalia soon) provided mochas and lattes made with single-bean brewed coffee and gourmet chocolate.

Surrounded by majestic trees under a clear late-September sky, guests gathered under strands of café lights and enjoyed food, libations and conversation at tables accented with miniature pumpkins. Tickets in hand, they waited for the drawings for Cacciatore Fine Wines, Olive Oil Corp., and Critchely Family Farms door prizes. Opportunity drawing tickets were available to purchase for the popular gun raffle, which this year awarded a firearm to three lucky winners.

Crowning the evening’s prize possibilities was a drawing for a DJI Phantom 4 Drone, partly sponsored by All Drone Solutions in Exeter, who also provided the winner with a free consultation on how to use it. This special drawing was open only to new TCFB Agriculture, Business Support, and Gold and Platinum Heritage Members who joined between May 1 and September 29. Another special drawing was held for those who referred new members to TCFB; that winner received a $100 gift card to the store of their choosing.

After making the rounds of vendors under the arbors, attendees voted in the Best of the Bounty contest. Winners were announced toward the end of the night, with honors (and bragging rights for the next year) going to Tulare Meat Locker for the Most Savory dish; Goodies Cookies for the Best Sweet Treat, and Left of Center for the Best Fresh Product.

Tulare County Farm Bureau Executive Director Tricia Stever Blattler was delighted with the evening’s attendance and offerings. “We’re so pleased to have such great weather and turnout, and fabulous participation from vendors, local breweries, and wine vendors. Our goal (in addition to encouraging membership) is to help local artisan food vendors connect with the community.” Without a doubt, those connections and new friendships were formed as community ties were strengthened through sharing, and everyone is already looking forward to next year’s event!

Text by Sue Burns | Photos by Trisha Dean