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What's the stinky smell in the county ?

  • A tractor is used to scrape manure out of a barn on a dairy ranch along Bodega Highway in 2005.

Some people know it as the “Sonoma Aroma,” a not-so-gentle reminder that the North Bay was farm country long before it acquired its reputation as Wine Country.

A couple of times each year, local dairy farmers start pumping out their holding ponds to spread cow manure out on their fields. The resulting odor, which pervaded the air around Santa Rosa and as far north as Healdsburg on Wednesday, is a unique and unmistakable Sonoma County barnyard bouquet.

“It made me want to vomit,” said Shauna Eagleton, who caught the unpleasant odor at the PG&E office at Stony Circle in Santa Rosa where she works as a land surveyor. “It was very, very strong.”

Sue Ostrom, Sonoma County’s chief deputy agricultural commissioner, said the process of “manure spreading” traditionally occurs around the time of the end of the Sonoma County Fair.

“Depending on the direction of the wind, it will affect people differently,” Ostrom said. “It’s essentially being used to return nutrients to the soil.”

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