By Tim Tesconi, Photographs By Dirk Bietau
Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s 23nd annual Great Sonoma Crab & Wine Fest will be held Feb. 4 in the Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
The Crab & Wine Fest, which has become the winter social event for the county’s farmers and ranchers and their friends and supporters, raises money for agriculture education. The goal of Farm Bureau’s extensive agricultural education program is to create an awareness of the county’s annual $3 billion agricultural industry so that farms and ranches remain part of the rural landscape for generations to come. Many of the people who come together to orchestrate the crab feed or donate wine, food and auction items are dedicated to preserving Sonoma County’s rich agricultural heritage for future generations.
“It’s so gratifying to be part of a community that comes together to support the farming industry and Farm Bureau’s agricultural education programs,” said Joe Pozzi, a west Sonoma County livestock rancher and president of Sonoma County Farm Bureau. The Crab Fest is an event that the agricultural community looks forward to each year. It’s a time to renew friendships and support a good cause while enjoying fresh crab and fine wine from Sonoma County.”
Last year’s Crab Fest attracted more than 1,200 people who enjoyed a grand night of feasting, lively conversation and spirited bidding. Guests will again enjoy fresh Dungeness crab, clam chowder, pasta, salad and dessert, all polished off with fine wines from Sonoma County.
Lex McCorvey, executive director of Sonoma County Farm Bureau, said the goal is to make this year’s Crab Fest the biggest and best yet, with a fun and lively crowd, terrific food, a relaxed ambiance and exciting auction items.
The evening starts with Galley reception featuring top wineries and food vendors offering a taste of Sonoma County.
Items in the live auction include a once-in-a-lifetime Tule Elk Hunt on Sonoma County businessman Gary Rasche’s R & R Ranch in Potter Valley. This exclusive hunt is valued at $15,000 and is a rare opportunity to bag one of the magnificent Elk that make their home on the R & Ranch. Other auction items include a lobster dinner prepared by Don and Patsy Calegari and served at their vineyard estate in Healdsburg; a lamb dinner prepared by griller extraordinaire Bruce Campell; ine Country Sports Package; a barbecue dinner at the Dutton Ranch, a lamb and half of a beef for the freezer and other items including more unique dinners and trips.
There will be more than 100 silent auction items, which include wine, food items, jewelry, arts and crafts and many farm items from feed and tack stores.
The Crab and Wine Fest is a totally home-grown event staged by Farm Bureau members and staff with the assistance of an army of volunteers. Many of the groups benefiting from Farm Bureau’s agriculture education program pitch in to help set up tables, decorate and serve the meal. Joining the work crew will be volunteers from the Santa Rosa Junior College Ag Ambassadors, FFA Chapters, 4-H Clubs and the Santa Rosa High School Ag Boosters.
McCorvey said Farm Bureau is committed to providing agricultural education to youth, adults and community leaders so they can better understand the unique aspects of farming, no matter if it’s dairy cows, horses or vineyards. He said the proceeds from the crab fest fund Farm Bureau activities that bring agriculture to those who would otherwise not benefit from a farm experience.
One of Farm Bureau’s major educational efforts is Ag Days, which will be held March 27 and 28 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The event provides a farm experience for more than 5,000 city kids.
Farm Bureau also uses the proceeds from the crab fest to support farm youth organizations like the FFA and 4-H and to fund scholarships for students continuing their agricultural education. Last year, the Farm Bureau Foundation of Sonoma County awarded 30 scholarships valued at nearly $50,000. The scholarships were awarded to agriculture students and the college-bound children of Sonoma County vineyard workers.
“We take great pride in preparing individuals for careers in agriculture through our scholarship programs,” said McCorvey.
Farm Bureau’s crab feed has grown from a few hundred people to more than a thousand. When it started 23 years ago, the Great Sonoma Crab & Wine Fest was held at the Sebastopol Veterans Memorial Building and then as it grew to the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building. Six years ago, the Crab Fest moved to the Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds to accommodate the ever-growing numbers of people who now consider it a traditional event on their social calendar.
Another trend is the increase in the number of guests who buy the “Captain’s Tables,” which offer full-service with china and silverware, preferred seating, medal-winning wines and elegant Wine Country chocolates. Captain’s Tables are $950 for 10 people.
A reserved table for 10 is $800. Individual tickets are $75 each. Reservations are required and must be made by Jan. 25. A reservation form for the Crab Fest is available in this publication. For further information please call the Farm Bureau office at 544-5575.