Apple orchards have long been a feature of Tuolumne County. At one time, Tuolumne County apples were well known and highly sought after, now only a few orchards are still in production. Tuolumne County even sold itself as "The land of promise for apple growers where good unimproved land can be secured at a very reasonable figure". One man who made this promise a reality was Frank Ralph who, around the turn of the 20th century, planted 26 acres of apples between Tuolumne and Soulsbyville. It is a matter of record that in 1919, that orchard produced $15,000 worth of apples. Records also show that in that same year, Tuolumne County apples were selling up to $2 a box more than other apples. Brothers Galo and Walter, who planted apples on their bordering ranches quickly joined Frank Ralph in the apple business. Walter's ranch is the sight of present day Cover's Apple Ranch. Most of the trees on the Ranch today were planted by him in 1929.
In 1939, the Ranch was sold to Albert Bowlsby who developed the Ranch to its full production. During one year, it produced 17,000 boxes of apples. Anthony Gotelli purchased the Ranch in 1951 and operated it for the next eight years, selling apples locally and the in San Joaquin Valley. In 1959, Rudy and Esther Cover bought the Ranch and introduced a change in the marketing. Apples were sold almost exclusively through the added showroom/salesroom. Cold storage was also added to keep the fruit crisp and fresh long after it was picked. Rudy sold to Louis and Evelyn Sonka in 1971. Changing the name to Sonka's Apple Ranch was one of the many changes made by them over the next 13 years. New trees were planted to replace old trees and sprinkler irrigation replaced outdated flood watering. Two wind machines were added to avoid costly freeze-outs in the Spring. Apple pies were baked and sold on the premises as well as fresh pressed cider. Hal and Jude Bomgardner acquired the ranch in 1984. During their tenure, the bakery and gift shop were increased and the reputation of quality baked goods was further established. Maintaining the Sonka's Apple Ranch name made the place seem as though it had never had any other name and was often referred to simply as "Sonka's". In 1987 a scale model railroad was constructed and continues to be an attraction for young and old alike.
In 1998, the century old ranch once again changed hands. Having been next door neighbors for 30 years, Joe and Carol Cover, along with their six sons, purchased Sonka's Apple Ranch. Joe is the younger brother of former owner Rudy Cover and once again it is called Cover's Apple Ranch. A devastating fire on September 11, 2000, destroyed the entire bakery and gift shop facility. In August 2002, business was reopened across Cherokee Road, the train was relocated, and the Ranch began a new century of business.
It is our desire to perpetuate the long-standing reputation of quality homemade pies, turnover, breads, etc. The orchard, while past its prime production years is still capable of producing premium apples. Every Fall, it offers a selection of Arkansas Black, Common Red Delicious, Early Blaze, Golden Delicious, Winesap, Red and Yellow Bartlett, Winter Nellis, and Bosc Pears. The salesroom includes a bakery that serves breakfast and deli items. There is a small shop with books, candy, and other gift items. Cover's Apple Ranch is an experience for the whole family. Enjoy your visit!