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Holiday trees and much more

Forty years ago, Adam Parks' grandparents bought a Christmas tree farm located at the corner of Mill Station Road and Gravenstein Highway North in Sebastopol. While many tree farms have converted to grapes, considered a more lucrative endeavor than holiday trees, the Victorian Christmas Tree Farm has held steady, welcoming both regular and new customers every year. Customers picked and cut their own trees until 15 years ago, when the farm added the option of pre-cut trees. Today, it grows several varieties of trees -- including the Nobel fir, the most popular Christmas tree in American -- in Oregon that simply don't thrive in Sonoma County.

The farm has also become increasingly well known for its Trees for Troops program. Customers are invited to donate $25, which sponsors a Christmas tree for a soldier who can't be home for the holidays. This year, the farm is hoping to sponsor 150 trees.

One does not live in these times by Christmas trees alone. In May, 2010, Adam Parks, grandson of the founders, moved his family from Stockton back to the family ranch and launched the Victorian Farmstead Meat Co. Two years ago, he opened the Chop Shop at the ranch and has plans to build an old-fashioned butcher shop in Sebastopol.

Currently, Victorian Farmstead has both white broad-breast turkeys and heritage breed turkeys for the holidays. These birds are pasture-raised and fed an all-organic diet. Reserve soon for Thanksgiving, as they will likely sell out.

Victorian Farmstead also offers about 200 chickens a week, some sold whole, some in pieces. There are eggs, too, though not a lot, as virtually all local chickens are going through their seasonal molt, a time when egg production drops dramatically. These chickens eat an organic soy-free diet from Modesto Feed, considered the best chicken feed available. Eggs are $7.50 a dozen.

Three lambs are harvested each week, and the farm also has a steady supply of pastured pork and grass-fed beef, along with products like bacon, fresh sausages, beef jerky and pepperoni sticks.

Parks has recently added rabbit, too, though the supply is limited and sells out the day of harvest. By the beginning of the new year, he expects to have about 32 rabbits available each month.

The Gravenstein Highway North property can't sustain on his property all that Victorian Farmstead sells and so Parks has set up programs with local ranches to handle what he calls his overflow. The ranches are breed-specific, which is to say one raises beef, one raises pork, one raises lamb and one raises rabbit, all according to Parks' specifications. None of the animals is given hormones or antibiotics and all graze on organic pasture.

Victorian Farmstead operates a popular subscription program and has recently retooled it a bit. There are now three options: a classic box, which includes a selection chosen by Parks and is priced at 20 percent below retail; a custom box, which allows customers to choose what they want and is priced at 15 percent below retail; and a chicken subscription, which is just that, chicken only, either weekly, biweekly or monthly. After receiving many requests, the ranch also offers an innards-only box, 10 pounds for $35 and 25 pounds for $75. This option, particularly popular with people who make their own pet food, has been so successful that they are currently sold out.

Adam Parks has more ephemeral offerings, too. He'll brainstorm with you to come up with something special for the holidays, he'll tell you how to make porchetta and what to do with rabbit and, if you want a crown rack of lamb or crown pork roast, he'll make it happen, smiling all the while in his signature hat.


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