We usually drive long distances to find in-season local fruit and vegetables that we can pick ourselves. This time of year, we don’t have to go far to get our fix. We live in the foothills outside of Sacramento, CA and we have some aweome local you-pick farms less than five miles from our house.
Strawberry season usually starts sometime in late March or early April and continues through November depending on the weather that year. We watch our local you-pick organic strawberry farm closely and since we drive by almost every day this is easy to do. El Dorado Hills Natural Farms is located just off Hwy 50 in El Dorado Hills off the Bass Lake Rd. exit. For anyone traveling to South Lake Tahoe this farm is a really easy stop off since the farm is actually visible from the highway.
El Dorado Hills Natural Farms is the only chicken, fruit and vegetable farm on the western slope of El Dorado County and they offer seasonal berries and some other selections along with farm eggs. The farm was a large dairy farm in the early-to-mid 1900’s and now has returned to its agricultural beginnings. The local farmer owners follow all-natural pest and weed control methods to provide pesticide-free products.
Strawberry picking is open weekends in the early season and opens more days as the season goes on. The El Dorado Hills Natural Farms Facebook page is the best resource to see when the farm is open and what’s available. The farm hosts community events complete with music and food throughout the year along with their public picking hours. There is also a farmstand during peak season for those customers that don’t want to pick.
Since El Dorado Hills is rattlesnake territory we make sure to wear our thickest rainboots or outdoor boots and keep a vigilant watch on our tots while they are picking. Some picnic tables are available for snacking or a quick lunch. Parking is in a dirt lot right in front of the farm entrance. The farm is cash only so hit the ATM before you go.
El Dorado Hills Natural Farms is located at 1941 Old Bass Lake Rd., El Dorado Hills, CA and hours vary by season.
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