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San Diego County, California

Volcan Mountain Foundation Supporters Get Down to Earth at Cook Pigs Ranch

An unseasonably hot September day turned to a perfect, balmy summer evening for the Volcan Mountain Foundation’s (VMF) 2014 Wild West Pork Fest benefit on Saturday the 13th.  Nearly 60 guests and sponsors turned out for the much-anticipated farm-to-table dinner hosted by Cook Pigs Ranch and several other local vendors.

Krys & Mike Cook were assisted by their hard-working ranch crew of Rafael, Augie, Chase and several others throughout the week as they busily readied their ranch and home for guests.  The Cooks were enthusiastic and gracious hosts. Their ranch is home not only to several varieties of heritage-breed pigs, but their two young boys, brand new baby girl, and a menagerie that includes longhorn cattle, chickens, turkeys and the luckiest ranch dogs around!

Guests arriving at the inviting cabana bar and lounge area cooled off with local wines from La Serenissima Winery & Vineyard in Warner Springs and Lenora Winery in Ramona provided courtesy of Pat & Darrell Straube of Orchard Hill Country Inn and poured by Cook’s friend and volunteer, Amber Jones.  Paul Thomas of Julian Hard Cider debuted his new Apple Pie Hard Cider—which was deliciously refreshing and truly tasted like apple pie!  Traditional cider was another thirst-quenching option provided by Keith & Priscilla Webb of Apple Lane Orchard.

Once everyone had a cool beverage, Krys Cook took guests on a behind-the-scenes tour of the ranch where she shared the studied, intimate, hands-on approach they take to raising their award-winning pigs and pork products.  Following the tour, guests were invited to the front deck shaded by abundant mature oaks and pines with views of surrounding ranchlands glinting golden in the setting sun.  Local event coordinator, Jessica Noble, of A Noble Event and Dish Dames, contributed charming farm tables, and stylish settings and decorations for the dinner.

Mike Cook had been tending the freshly-roasted pig in an ingenious portable pit grill since early in the day, and finished it off with a generous serving of the new Julian Hard Cider.  Brother-in-law, Nick, helped Mike pull the masterpiece out of the pit in grand style.  They expertly carved juicy, delectable cuts as hungry guests helped themselves.  New honorary mayor of Julian, Stacy Peyakov, of Wynola Flats Produce, donated fresh produce with which Chef Jeremy Manley of Jeremy’s On The Hill worked his magic by combining it with Cook Pigs Ranch pork.  His Butternut Squash with Pig Ears, and Ground Pork & Wild Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers were a delicious accompaniment.  Chef Charles Scott of Candied Apple Pastry Company contributed rich and scrumptious Salt Pork Spice Cakes with Apples & Raisins topped with Cream Cheese Icing & Smoked-Apple Bacon—pork and bacon from Cook Pigs Ranch, of course!

In a day and age where so many of us are disconnected from how our food is sourced, this was a unique opportunity for guests to observe and share what so many of our ancestors experienced for centuries—food grown onsite, or very nearby, then prepared and served fresh and at its peak.  It was a heart-felt reminder of the importance of staying connected to the earth and the cycles of nature and life.   The dedicated coordination efforts of VMF Program Assistant Gina Campus were invaluable, while VMF Executive Director, Colleen Bradley, welcomed guests and rolled up her sleeves the night of the event.  The benefit would not have been possible without the contributions from generous hosts, enthusiastic guests, and hard-working volunteers.  A big thank you to all for supporting VMF’s efforts to connect people with nature and protect Volcan Mountain!

Check out the photo album on VMF's Facebook page!

Title Image: 
Photo courtesy of Ralph Deem