PLEASANT HILL -- In its rich history, Rodgers Ranch had always been known as a working ranch where wheat and crops once grew.
Even after it ceased to be a working ranch in 1978, it continued on as an educational center and gathering place for events like the Round Up, where children learned how butter was churned and how laundry was done using a washboard and wringer.
The ranch's recent history includes serving as the meeting site for the Friends of Rodgers Ranch, the Northern California Unit of the Herb Society of America, and the Pleasant Hill Historical Society.
It has also been the gathering place for gardeners to learn innovative gardening techniques at the ranch's Urban Farm and Teaching Garden.
On Oct. 13, the community will all meet back at the ranch again for the Harvest Festival to celebrate not just the ranch's history but also its present and future as the Rodgers Ranch Heritage Center.
"We are now known as the Rodgers Ranch Heritage Center, reflecting on all of the groups using the site," said Denise Koroslev, the center's president.
The Northern California Unit of the Herb Society of America meets on the second Sunday of each month. The Pleasant Hill Historical Society meets on the fourth Thursday of the month, and the Urban Farm and Teaching Garden has ongoing classes on bio dynamic and sustainable gardening.
The new name, incorporating all of the groups, will officially be announced at the Harvest Festival amid a flurry of family activities. The herb society will show how to use harvested herbs in crafts and preserve them for winter use. Master gardeners from the urban farm will give tips on preparing a garden for winter and what plants grow well into fall. The historical society will offer activities for children, Koroslev said.
Other presentations include backyard chickens, beekeeping during winter, gluten-free cooking, food preservation, mulching and succulent propagation.
"We're trying to rebuild the wheat barn and plan to expand the ongoing classes on herb use and gardening," Koroslev said of future plans for the ranch.
The annual Round Up, which offers students a glimpse of farm life in the 1800s, will also expand its program to include major aspects of California history.
Koroslev, who's also president of the historical society, said gathering more information about the ranch coincided with gathering more historical material to prepare for the 50th anniversary of Pleasant Hill in 2011.
Recently, the Urban Farm and Teaching Garden has been quite a force at the ranch, she said.
Koroslev, who knew Marian Woodard through the Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce, found out that the master gardener and her group lost their garden at the Shadelands property in Walnut Creek. With the support of the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District, Rodgers Ranch became the site of the Urban Farm and Teaching Garden which held an urban farm expo last spring.
John Matthesen, who also teaches an urban farming class through Diablo Valley College's culinary department, said he thrives on using the ranch's farm and garden as an educational tool. He said the Harvest Festival is a great way to increase awareness about the urban farm and teaching garden's existence.
"This really goes with the original concept of the ranch -- to bring farming back not only to the site but also to the community," Matthesen said.
The heritage center's mission isn't only about historic preservation but also about using farming to teach people what can grow in this area and how to do it by actually working in the garden, he said.
"We're blending the past with modern gardening techniques," he said about the urban farm that supplies tomatoes, kale, squash and other vegetables to the local food bank.
While the historical society's role is about preserving the past, the Urban Farm and Teaching Garden is about moving forward, Matthesen said.
"We want to take the concept of this farming tradition and bring it into the 21st century," Koroslev said. "The past sustains the future. That's our motto."