Literally hundreds of fellow ranchers, fruit growers, friends and customers of Eric H. Hansen paid their respects Saturday at Pine Hill Orchard in Loomis. Eric, a fixture at and one of the original members of the Auburn Farmers’ Market and a widely respected orchardist with a quirky personality, lost his life in a tractor accident on the ranch in early March.
Eric, 58, was a regular and valued source of all types of fruit for Carpe Vino. In fact, the week of his passing, Pine Hill Orchard supplied the majority of the citrus that was featured in Carpe Vino’s “Tart & Tangy Citrus Palooza” prix-fixe event in March. He worked closely with Chef Eric Alexander and was proud to have his orchard frequently credited on restaurant menus. He even reserved all of the fruit from his very rare Yuzu citrus tree exclusively for Chef Alexander.
The farm-to-fork movement is a widely hyped phenomenon that in theory connects farmers with the culinary world. The reality of this intersection was demonstrated vividly when our Eric Alexander and Courtney McDonald–operators of their own family farm–teamed up with the Enoch family of Latitudes fame, Pete, Pat and daughter, Alice Shreve; Peg Poswall; and other volunteers to create a beautiful luncheon for the throng of mourners. They worked tirelessly to assist the Hansen family, which was clearly overwhelmed by the loving support of their community.
Eric was a foodie in his own right, and he enjoyed occasional outings to Carpe Vino with his wife, Yarda. I frequently turned the tables and purchased fruit from Eric at the market in Old Town. One of the last times I saw him, I needed mandarins, but everything he had was packaged in 10-pound bags. I told him, “Eric, I live by myself and I can’t eat that many.” In response he tied up a bag of samples and waved me away when I asked him “how much?”
Losing Eric stunned the Ag community, and it had a profound effect on me personally. . .one that I really can’t explain. It’s hard to imagine visits to the Farmers’ Market and not seeing him grinning under his pop-up. Eric was emblematic of the people and the process that make Saturday mornings such a true joy. We’ll surely miss him in this world.