farm to fork

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.

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


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.

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.

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.