Drive up around Sonora and you see them, gleaming like nuggets to a gold miner.
Specialty farms dot the landscape in increasing numbers, producing wine grapes, apples, olives, llamas and other crops and livestock.
You can get a closer look June 8 by taking the sixth annual Farms of Tuolumne County Farm and Ranch Tour. It will feature five sites you can drive to in any order from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Adults pay $8 in advance, $10 on tour day; people younger than 18 are free. The sites will have products for sale, free samples and activities for kids and adults.
The tour is sponsored by several businesses with the help of a Sonora Area Foundation grant.
On the itinerary:
Hurst Ranch, 17415 Highway 108, Jamestown: It started as a feed and ranch supply store and now offers beef, wine, olive oil and a few other products. During the tour, it will provide rides on ponies, a tractor-drawn stagecoach and a miniature railroad.
Gianelli Vineyards, 12581 Algerine Road, southeast of Jamestown: It makes wines from several premium Italian grapes. Visitors can taste them, as well as local food prepared by Seven Sisters Restaurant.
Red Earth Farm, 13350 Algerine-Wards Ferry Road, southeast of Jamestown: It grows fruits and vegetables and will have baby goats, piglets, chicks and ducklings on display. Samples of local food from Christopher's Ristorante Italiano will be offered. Plants will be on sale from Golden Brodiaea Nursery and Al Judnich's Gardening and Bonsai.
Llamas of Circle Home, 15301 Tuolumne Road, east of Sonora: Visitors can hear about the Andean origins of the animals and their use in packing. Items hand-woven from llama fiber will be for sale, as will olive oil and lavender products from Rancho Torales/Sonora Gold.
Cover's Apple Ranch, 19211 Cherokee Road, west of Tuolumne: It will show visitors the orchard and demonstrate pie-making and an old-fashioned cider press. Bakery and deli items will be sold at a discount. Visitors also can ride a miniature train and see barn animals.
Enterprises like these have brought a little diversity to a county still best known for beef cattle, timber and Diestel Turkey Ranch.
The county does not have the exceptional soil of Stanislaus County, so it's not about to join the elite among ag regions. Nor does it have much claim on the rivers that rise in this part of the Sierra Nevada.
What Tuolumne County does have is small farmers and ranchers who have combined hard work and creative ideas to make it a place worth visiting next month.
More information on the tour is at (209) 928-3775 or www.farmsoftuolumnecounty. org.
Have an idea for Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.