For more than 80 years, the journey up Highway 29 into Napa Valley has begun with the same view. To this day, as motorists make the turn off of Highway 12 from Sonoma or sweep across the Napa River and head north into the valley, the first sights they encounter are a set of green fields dotted with cows grazing placidly in front of an old white barn.
This pastoral scene, in the Carneros section of Napa Valley, provides an exceedingly rare glimpse into an agrarian past that few in modern-day Napa remember. Multi-generational family farms, especially those that grow anything but grapes, are all but extinct in Napa. But thanks to a measure passed by the Napa Board of Supervisors on 22 March, the few remaining such farms may have a new lease on life.
Those picturesque pastures at the entrance to Napa Valley (pictured above) have been in Ailene Tarap’s family for four generations, ever since her great-grandparents bought the property in 1903. The Stewart Ranch, as it is called, was one of Napa’s original local dairies, but now Ailene and her husband Paul raise a small herd of Belted Galloway cattle for meat, even as they struggle to keep the property afloat so they may pass it along to their children.
‘Over the years we’ve been working to figure out how to avoid having the next generation forced to sell the ranch and develop it, but ultimately the cows are not going to make it’, says Tarap.
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Image of the Stewart Ranch courtesy of Paul and Aileen Tarap.