Strawberry Stands. (Sacramento County, CA and Surrounding Areas)

When I first moved to Sacramento almost ten years ago one of my favorite sights was the adorable strawberry stands that seemed to be around every turn.  The rustic white paint.  Red strawberries adorning the sides of the old fashioned stands.  It was one of my favorite parts of this time of year.


After further investigation I found that there is a strawberry stand in almost every part of Sacramento within a ten-mile drive.  There are over 90 stands total.  The stands are family owned and set up so that locals can purchase their strawberries right from the farmer.

The idea of the strawberry stand is pretty much my urban farming philosophy all bundled up in a cute package.  Having a small urban farm that’s only purpose is to provide just picked produce for their neighborhood.  The stands are set up alongside the land where the strawberries are farmed.  There are picked at the peak of ripeness and then sold right there by stand owners and family.  Owners get to know their neighbors and farmers and residents work and live together in perfect harmony.

I wanted to know more about these small-scale local strawberry farmers so I researched further.  I found out that about five years ago UC Berkeley and UC Davis Cooperative Extension and a grant from the USDA National Research Initiative set out to tell the story of the strawberry farmers in Sacramento.

Most of the 95 strawberry farm stands in and around the Sacramento region are owned and operated by Mien and Hmong refugees from Laos, a small country in Southeast Asia that neighbors Vietnam.
When the U.S. left Southeast Asia in 1975, hundreds of thousands of Hmong and Mien fled their homeland to avoid persecution. Over 120,000 were eventually resettled in the U.S. The population today has expanded to an estimated 300,000, with nearly 35,000 residing in the Sacramento area alone.  Most of the refugees were farmers in Laos. In an effort to rebuild their lives, many turned to farming in the U.S. Most growers lease small plots of land and grow several varieties of strawberries.

The scientists working on the grant identified the local growers and expanded their businesses.  They found that the average strawberry stand only makes about $15,000 a year in a perfect growing year.  They tried to increase the stand’s revenue by forging relationships with local school districts, restaurants and low-income community grocery stores.  This not only provided additional revenue streams for farmers, it provided farm-to-fork options for children to learn that their food could come from their own communities.  The local fruit was offered to students in five regional school districts: Sacramento City Unified, Yuba City Unified, Buckeye Unified and Rescue Unified in El Dorado County and Roseville City Unified.
 I for one am so happy to have these hard-working strawberry farmers as part of our communities.  Knowing more about their challenging history and work ethic makes me even more proud to see these stands in our neighborhood.  Want to know where you can buy strawberries near you?  A Google Map was created to find strawberry stands throughout the Sacramento region and surrounding areas.  I found the stand in our neighborhood.  Can you find yours?

Get to know your local strawberry stand owners.  Purchase ripe strawberries the way they are intended to be enjoyed.  Talk to the families that run these stands and find out more about them.  If each of us can show our children what a valuable service these families provide, we are ensuring the successful future of urban farming in our communities.  Without our support, urban farmers can’t survive.

We chatted with the stand owner on Grant Line Rd. in Elk Grove today and learned about his business and more about the variety of Chandler strawberries that he uses.  Local farmers can teach us all something that we didn’t know about the food we eat.

Tell us the story of your neighborhood strawberry stand.  We would love to hear it!



The stands featured in this post are the stands on Grant Line Rd. in Elk Grove and the stand on Green Valley in El Dorado Hills.  The stands are opening around our area now and should all be fully open within the next month.  The Google map has phone numbers for most stands if you want to make sure your local stand is open.

Vote for Farm Tots. KCRA A-List Best Local Blogger.

I started Farm Tots for two reasons.

One.  To challenge myself as I further my education in the areas of nutrition and community-based agriculture.  I wanted to provide myself a valid excuse for researching more about agriculture and farming in our own community.  I wanted to expand my personal knowledge and have a platform to educate my children.

Two.  I wanted to create a resource for families to learn more about farming in our communities.  Showing how easy it is to teach children about where their food comes from.  How learning about farmining and experiencing the farm-to-fork lifestyle is one of the most inexpensive and rewarding opportunities families have in our gorgeous state.

I grew up spending my summers on our family cattle ranch and after college worked in marketing, representing some of the most famous large-scale organic winemaking families.

Making people more aware of agriculture and finding the opportunities to experience the farming that goes on around them is my passion.  Vote for Farm Tots so we can increase our reach and even more families can become Farm Tot families.

Vote now for the KCRA A-List Best Local Blogger!

 

Farmer’s Market. Historic Folsom. (Folsom, CA)

Since our city doesn’t have a farmer’s market this time of year we are always trying new places to do our weekly shopping.  This week it was a completely amazing day to head down to Historic Folsom to the Saturday morning market.  If you haven’t been to this market it’s a perfect blend of small size and organic options.  The best part of being in Historic Folsom is it is a short 5 minute drive off Highway 50 and has lots of tot friendly diversions besides food shopping.

My older tot loves trains.  He has visited the Folsom Railroad Museum since we first moved to this area and he doesn’t seem to get tired of it.  If you have a 2-6 year old boy.  I guarantee he would like it too!  The museum is only open on weekends from 11:00 am-4:00 pm and is a short walk from the Historic Folsom parking garage by the market.  On your way over you can also look at the Historic Folsom Turntable that allowed trains that had hit the end of the Sacramento Valley Railroad to turn around and head back the way they came.

Once you have your fill of trains you can walk down the streets of the Historic Folsom District and window shop, grab a coffee or peruse antiques.

Need quick tot friendly place to get a snack or lunch?  We recommend Karen’s Bakery across from the parking garage for homemade pastries, coffee or locally inspired breakfast and lunch options.  There is counter service with indoor or outdoor patio dining.  Karen’s can get crowded so sometimes it is best to select some pastries and premade salads and take them to go for later.  For restaurant style dining right on Sutter St. we love the Sutter Street Grill.  There is plenty of tot friendly indoor and outdoor seating and the funky decor makes it a worry free choice.  The portions are huge so spliting entrees with tots is a cost saving hint.  We love their omelets and biscuits.

 


Folsom Historic District Farmer’s Market

Saturdays Year-Round
8:00 am-1:00 pm
915 Sutter St.
Folsom, CA

Folsom Railroad Museum
Saturdays Year-Round
11:00 am-4:00 pm
198 Wool St.
Folsom, CA

 

Strawberry Picking Season. In March. (Yolo County, CA and El Dorado County, CA)

Strawberry season usually starts in April around the Sacramento region.  Not this year!  Strawberry farms are open and farmer’s markets are already bursting with my favorite berries!  It took us by surprise as we drove by our local strawberry farm this weekend and saw families out amongst the rows of spring plants excitedly picking.

Growing up in Marin County we had a small strawberry patch in our backyard.  I would spend hours staring at our little garden waiting for green strawberries to turn to red and usually I would pick them mid-ripening because the anticipation was too much for me to handle.  There is nothing like homegrown strawberries.  Nothing.  You know how grocery store strawberries are thick skinned and semi sweet?  Homegrown strawberries, because they don’t have to be packaged and shipped around are picked at the peak of ripeness (unless you are five and can’t wait a moment longer) and are different varieties with thinner skin and juicier fruit.  A strawberry picked right out of the garden is oozing with sugary sweetness and is so tender it practically melts in your mouth.  The only way to get a berry like this, without growing your own, is to visit a local strawberry farm.  Just do it.  Trust me.

There are two strawberry farms that my family likes to visit each year.  One is in Yolo County near Davis and one is in El Dorado County in El Dorado Hills close to our home.  In between these two farms are approximately 95 strawberry stands scattered around the Sacramento metropolitan area.

My absolute favorite strawberry farm is Pacific Star Gardens near Davis in Woodland.  I first heard about Pacific Star Gardens when I worked at UC Davis and some of my students talked about it.  Only in Davis would college students spend their weekend strawberry picking and then come back to school on Monday and tell their boss about their adventures.  I love Davis.  Pacific Star Gardens is located on a sleepy county road in between Davis and Woodland.  It is sometimes manned and sometimes unmanned so it’s cash only.  I think this is the first farm I ever visited that had a money box and used the honor system.  I had just moved to Davis and the concept of having a money box right out in the open was so mind blowing I could hardly contain my excitement and all faith was again restored that humanity wasn’t deteriorating as quickly as I feared.  Driving to the farm takes quick reflexes and patience.  The farm comes up quickly and just as quickly disappears so keep a watch out for signs and drive carefully.  Pulling off the road there is a small dirt parking area and a covered farm stand that also features eggs, berries and vegetables as they become available.  Strawberries are $3/lb. or $15 a bucket (provided by the farm) and are certified organic.  Restrooms are not available.  The farm is tot friendly and hoards of families can be found on peak days and times so try to visit during the cooler morning hours to get prime first pick.

The closest strawberry farm to my home is El Dorado Natural Farms.  A recent neighbor that just started offering you pick strawberries along with other offerings last year.  I loved seeing this farm start operations because they are less than five minutes from my house and have easy on and off access from Highway 50.  They are a sustainable farm and use natural farming practices in all they do.  They have events throughout the year and are becoming one of the most family-friendly places in El Dorado Hills for friends to gather during the growing season.  Because this farm is located right off the Bass Lake Rd. exit on Highway 50 it’s the perfect stop off going to or from South Lake Tahoe or Apple Hill.  Strawberries are $3/basket for you pick and there is also a farm stand if you don’t have time to pick yourself.  The farm is only open weekends for now and as production ramps up, open daily.  The owners and employees are friendly and informative and the facility makes it easy to pick strawberries at the only fruit, vegetable and chicken farm on the Western Slope of El Dorado County.

El Dorado Natural Farm
Picking open 10:00 am-4:00 pm, weekends
1941 Old Bass Lake Rd.
El Dorado Hills, CA
www.edhfarms.com

Pacific Star Gardens
Open 8:30 am to 7:00 pm, daily
20872 County Road 99
Woodland, CA
Pacific Star Gardens Facebook Page

Do you have a favorite you pick strawberry farm?  Tell us about it!  We would love to feature it in a later post.

Open Farmstands. March.


March isn’t the best month for farm visits, except there are some awesome farmstands open.  Here is a  list of open farmstands for this month in the Sacramento and surrounding areas.

  1. This list includes only farmstands that are open to the public and don’t require reservations.  Look for a list of farm visits by appointment in a future post.
  2. These are only farmstands that are open for business in March.
  3. We didn’t include produce stores, just traditional stands.
  4. In the next month or two this list is going to get much longer so stick with us.  For now, try to visit a  farmstand you haven’t tried yet.
  5. Some local farmstands don’t just feature their own produce, they source selections from around the state and beyond.  If you are trying to just eat organic or just local (or both) make sure to ask questions and choose carefully.  I still like buying my produce from a farmstand instead of a big grocery store, even if it’s not all local.

El Dorado County

Boa Vista Orchards (Farmstand)
Open Daily
2952 Carson Road
Placerville, CA
www.boavista.com

Placer County

Ikeda’s California Country Market (Produce Stand)
Open Daily
13500 Lincoln Way
Auburn, CA
www.ikedas.com

Otow Orchard (Farmstand)
Tue-Thu 11:30 am to 1:30 pm and Fri-Sun 10:00 am to 6:00 pm 
6232 Eureka Road
Granite Bay, CA
www.otoworchard.com

Sacramento County

Davis Ranch (Farmstand)
Open Daily
13211 Jackson Road
Sloughhouse, CA
www.davisranchproduce.com

Kingbird Farms (Farmstand CSA)
Digital Farmstand, Order Between Monday-Thursday On Website, Pick Up Friday afternoon-Saturday
8869 Orr Road
Galt, CA
www.kingbirdfarms.com

Yolo County

Full Belly Farm (Farmstand)
Open Fridays from 2:00 pm-6:00 pm
16090 County Road 43
Guinida, CA
www.fullbellyfarm.com

Ikeda’s California Country Market (Produce Stand)
Open Daily
26295 Mace Blvd.
Davis, CA
www.ikedas.com

Loving Nature Farm (Farmstand CSA)
Open Daily
38883 Z Line Road
Clarksburg, CA
www.lovingnaturefarm.com

Pedrick Produce (Produce Stand)
6850 Sievers Road
Dixon, CA
no website

Yolo Fruit Stand (Produce Stand)
Open Daily
46710 County Road 32B
Davis, CA
no website

Don’t see your favorite farmstand on our list?  It could be closed this time of year or maybe it slipped by us!  Leave us a comment if you want to see a farmstand added to our list.  We love hearing from you.

Eat Local. March.

Even though it might seem like spring, we have three more weeks of winter to go.  This has been a warmer winter so some farms are experiencing earlier harvests.  Here is our guide to shopping locally this month.

Market availability varies by region.  This is a general guide for Northern California based on Bay Area and Sacramento growers.

Fall and Winter Favorites
These selections are entering the last phase of their season so grab them while you can or wait until next year.

Apples
Pears
Potatoes
Some citrus
Winter Squash

Peak Late Winter Favorites
These selections are right at the peak or middle of their season so find them and try out some new recipes while availability is widespread.

Baby Carrots
Beets
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery
Chard
Fennel
Grapefruit
Kohlrabi
Kale
Lemons
Lettuce
Mandarins
Radishes
Sorrel
Spinach
Turnips

New Additions
These selections are making their debut now so find them and explore some choices we haven’t seen since last spring.

Artichokes
Asparagus
Fava Beans

Tot tip of the month.  It’s been a long winter.  Our tots are so relieved to finally be able to pick out their own selections at our local farms and markets.  It’s amazing to watch them pick out the food we are buying and then make the connection that what is one their plate is what we bought together.  Start conversations at the dinner table about what you are eating.  When we remind our tots about where their asparagus came from they stop being disgusted and start being interested about what is in front of them.  They are eager to try vegetables they picked out and are often surprised that they (gasp) actually LIKE it.  We tell stories about the farm we visited and as we relate our favorite stories together dinner becomes less of a battle ground and more of a family experience.  My picky four year old has decided that this year he loves asparagus and even stole his sister’s last spear when she announced she was full.

 

March. Tot Friendly Food Festivals and Farming Events.

March is here and it’s time to start planning your weekend tot friendly family activities.  There aren’t many events yet, since weather is changeable this time of year, so make sure to plan early for the events that are happening in our area.  If there isn’t any events that your family can attend make sure to get out and support your local farmer’s market or farmstand.

Sacramento and Surrounding Area

Pig Day

Photo Courtesy of Davis Farmer’s Market

Davis Pig Day

March 7, 2015, 9:00 am-1:00 pm
Fourth and C streets in Davis, CA
Pig Day, celebrating all things pork at the Davis Farmer’s Market along with celebrating local agriculture, local farmers and local foods.  Bring your appetites for individually priced items from vendors, including breakfast sammies (with bacon or pulled pork), pigs-in-a-blanket, pork fried rice with vegetables, pork ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, piggy pops (French bread on a stick shaped like a pig’s head), pig cookies and bacon-flavored “frozen confections.”
A petting zoo of piglets and other children’s activities will be on site, as well.
http://www.davisfarmersmarket.org

Soil Born Farms Early Spring Plant Sale

March 21, 2015, 9:00am – 01:30pm
Sacramento, CA
Fill your early spring garden with seasonal vegetables, flowers, medicinal and/ culinary herbs and edible perennials, including fruit trees.
www.soilbornfarms.com

Bay Area and Beyond

Petaluma Artisan Cheese Festival Cheese Tasting and Marketplace
March 22, 2015
Petaluma, CA
The last day of the Petaluma Artisan Cheese Festival and one the tots can participate in.  A day under the big top for an afternoon like no other! Meet over 90 artisan producers and experience the best of local cheese, wine, beer, ciders and other specialty foods. Discover the next wave of interesting cheese accompaniments, cheesemaking products and books. Pick up new recipes, tips and tricks at chef demos scheduled throughout the day. Bring your pocketbook as there will be an opportunity to purchase your favorite cheeses and artisan products. Your ticket includes admission, access to chef demos and author book signings, the coveted Artisan Cheese Festival insulated cheese tote bag and a festival wine glass. $45 per person, $20 for kids 12 and under.
http://artisancheesefestival.com/

Farm Visit. Davis Ranch (Sloughhouse, CA)

Last weekend marked the first weekend of asparagus season in Sloughhouse, CA and we anxiously waited for the fog to clear so we could go get this early spring favorite.  The weather didn’t cooperate and after piling the tots in the Subaru and making it to Folsom, only to turn around because of unsafe conditions, we threw in the towel and decided to wait a week.

This Friday Grandma was visiting so we decided a quick after school trip before the thunderstorms hit might be our best opportunity.  We headed out and it was worth the wait.  The drive to Sloughhouse this time of year is so amazing.  The green pastures, cows lazily strolling through open land and cool temperatures are perfect for a scenic drive.

This usually crowded farm stand packed with Sacramento residents and tourists was completely empty.  We had the entire ranch to ourselves.  Parking lot was empty.  Farmstand empty.  Since it’s so early in the season the selections are limited.  We purchased tomatoes, onions, potatoes, apples, oranges and aparagus.  The asparagus is grown right on the ranch and comes in hourly from the fields.  Right now it’s $3 a bunch and the price just gets cheaper as the season gears up.

Davis Ranch has events throughout the year and festivals that draw large crowds.  This time of year the options might be sparse, only it’s the best time to get away from it all and have the place to yourself.  There are picnic tables ready to accomodate your tots along with portable bathrooms with running water to wash after.  Expect minimal grown on the ranch options, asparagus really being the standout this month.  We let our tots run around the picnic area and look at all the old farming equipment on display around the parking area.  This month it’s so quiet it’s the perfect time to let them explore and discover all the areas bordering a working farm.

We drive out to Davis Ranch throughout the year.  Our favorite time is late summer when corn is plentiful and their no-GMO corn is grown on the ranch and some of the best we have had.  Look for more reviews as we get further into the growing year.



Davis Ranch is waiting for you to explore at 3501 Jackson Rd, Sloughhouse, CA 95683 or reach them by phone at 916.682.2658 or online at davisranchproduce.com