Spotlight on Rainbow Orchard
It’s a tradition for families all over Northern California – when season begins, head to Rainbow Orchards for their legendary donuts. Most people might not know the history of those treats.
The historic barn at Rainbow dates from the 1920’s and was originally a cider mill. It was a longstanding American tradition in the apple growing regions of the Midwest and Northeast to keep the cider that begins to ferment and turn it into hard cider or used as the liquid to leaven donuts. Voila! Apple cider donuts. When the current owners, “Farmer Tom” and the “Donut Queen,” bought the farm in 1977, the mill was still in operation and the donuts were still being made – and that still happens today.
“When people ask for the recipe, I tell them if they want the secret, they have to buy the farm,” said Christa Campbell, the Donut Queen and CEO of Rainbow Orchards. “We still make them hot for every order and even though the lines may be long, they are worth the wait!”
The donuts might draw the crowd, but they are just the appetizer! Christa and her husband Tom Heflin run the farm that also produces many jams, jellies, syrups, vinegars, butters, and sauces on-site that are made from products grown at Rainbow. In addition, the bake shop offers fresh fruit pies, cobblers, and crisps made with fruits all grown by Rainbow: apple, peach, nectarine, blueberry, blackberry, and pumpkin.
In addition to the “soft” cider, Rainbow produces hard cider. Using the cider milled on site, each small batch is fermented in the traditional way just as our forefathers made it – no additives, no additional flavoring, and no carbonation. Each batch is unique depending on the flavor of the apples used in the press. Both the hard and the soft ciders can only be purchased at the Rainbow farm, Harris Family Farm (another Apple Hill Grower) and farmer’s markets throughout the year – up to 40 markets (some seasonal, some year-round) in the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe region. Locations can be found at rainboworchards.net.
Rainbow also offers a line of award-winning wines made from their vineyard, including Petit Syrah, Syrah, Counoise, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Camino Ridge Vin Rouge. Outdoor wine tasting is offered on the weekends during apple season.
For Tom and Christa, the farm is their family legacy. Their sons, West, Sage, and Harrison, and their kids make the third generation at Rainbow. The family believes their relationship with the El Dorado County community is part of their longevity. They give back by serving on numerous non-profit boards and committees that enhance the health, heritage, education, and welfare of El Dorado County. They’ve also been part of the Apple Hill Grower family for 45 years.
“I value the AHG goal of sustaining the small family farm and the support we’ve been afforded through the years from the AHG family farmers,” Christa said. “I have been around long enough to have known and worked with the ‘elders’ who started the organization and am still here appreciating the new generation of young farmers following their dream, including the second generation at Rainbow.”
Rainbow Orchards is currently open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. until November 28 (except for Thanksgiving) and on December 4 and 5.
Insider tip: On weekends from mid-June to mid-July Rainbow Orchard offers You Pick blueberries at our Camino Ridge location on Snows Road, Camino. Berry lovers can pick from five varieties in a beautiful mountain setting with spectacular views all the way to the coast range.