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.
Daffodil Hill is a yearly tradition for many of my friends that live near us and I just haven’t caught the timing right to visit during the short season since we moved to El Dorado County. The season only lasts around a month, opening sometime in early March and usually closing towards the beginning of April. This year’s season was even shorter due to El Nino rainy weather.
I became obsessed with the ability to make the trek to see this brief performance of floral brilliance this year. I stalked Daffodil Hill using every form of social media, and found a day they were open from their Facebook page and we were available to go. When we got a brief break in the storms, that were coming in one after another, I grabbed some of our oldest friends and we set out for a fun day out in Amador County. The drive from El Dorado Hills takes about 1.5 hours and the roads aren’t for city folk. The country roads wind and dip through some of the most picturesque scenery around. Small towns, wine country and farmland keep tots noses pressed against the window for most of the drive.
The road to the farm is windy and the non-paved driveway becomes too dangerous for visitors during rainstorms and right after them so the farm closes frequently because of weather. Make sure to call or visit their Facebook page to make sure they are open to visitors because the trip to get there isn’t a short one.
Weather permitting, Daffodil Hill is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking and admission are free; donations are welcome. A large picnic area is available with shaded picnic tables. Pets are not allowed. Outhouse style restrooms are available. No running water.
Daffodil Hill is closed for the 2016 season.
Daffodil Hill is at 18310 Rams Horn Grade, Volcano, about 55 miles from Sacramento. Call 209-296-7048 for more information
El Nino has definitely come to visit our part of California this month. After a balmy February we have been getting daily drenchings of much needed rain. Our weekend plans got cancelled because of the incoming storm so we are getting some inside projects done instead like getting our spring plants for our garden and starting some summer seeds in our kitchen window.
For anyone that was planning on attending the Farm Fresh to you Capay Farm Tour this weekend like we were. It is cancelled. Another event is scheduled for next month.
Here are some other recipes we are trying and ideas we are obsessing over this weekend
Getting ready for our Spring Break trip to San Francisco and finding all the activities for the crew of kids we are traveling with
Obsessing over where and how we can find ourselves a vacation cabin worthy of Cabin Porn
Picture is from our trip to Skinner Vineyards & Winery last month. Their wood burning fireplace outside is the best place to sip wine and visit with friends. Look for our review of tot-friendly winery trips later this month.
March is here! After a break over the winter we are back and it’s time to start planning for 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
Davis Pig Day
March 5, 2016, 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 19, 2016, 9:00am – 01:30pm
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 20, 2016
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/
There are no farmer’s markets in our town during the winter so we have to get out to find local fruit and vegetables. One of the largest markets in Sacramento is the Sacramento Farmer’s Market on Sunday that takes place under the freeway at 10th St. and W St.
We have been going to this market since we moved to the Sacramento area almost 10 years ago. It’s known for being one of the least expensive markets with bulk fruit and vegetable selections from around California available for prices that seem to be slightly less than some of the other local markets.
There are olive oil vendors, honey vendors, wineries, bakeries and more each weekend and the market gets larger and smaller depending on the season.
Some of our favorite purchases this weekend were large 10 lb. bags of mandarins and oranges, kiwis, broccoli, eggs and pretzels.
Parking is available in free lots surrounding the market along with outhouse style restrooms.
The Sacramento Central Farmer’s Market is located at 8th and W St. and runs from 8:00 am- 12 pm year-round.
Just before Thanksgiving break a friend and I took one of my tots and hit the country roads from Loomis to Penryn in the Northern California foothills. This area is part of the Mountain Mandarin growing region and has some of the best mandarins we have tried, grown along sleepy country roads. We didn’t know exactly where we were going. We just had a map and drove around for hours exploring this countryside which was completely new to us.
We saw the driveway to Colwell Ranch and couldn’t tell if it was open. It was a Tuesday morning and the roads were quiet so we decided to drive in to make sure. The ranch was open and we were immediately chatting with the friendly family members that own the place. We even got introduced to one of the youngest generation of farmers on this land, a tot on a push toy being entertained by his grandma, ranch co-owner, Nancy Colwell. (more…)
Yesterday I walked outside with our puppy in the mid afternoon and it was cold. Really cold. Now cold is a relative term since here in California I realize, only for us here in the Sacramento foothills, a 40 degree day is a sign that the seasons have changed. The icy wind whipped up the valley and I knew it must be mandarin harvest time. Mandarin harvest in the Sacramento area foothills usually begins in early to mid November and continues through December. The warm days and cool nights in Penryn, Newcastle, Loomis, Lincoln and Auburn make the area a perfect place to grow sweet, juicy, seedless mandarins. The mandarins there are tree-ripened and hand-picked to ensure they are perfecty ripe and ready to eat.
I wanted to visit a farm we haven’t been to before and a friend recommended Struble Ranch and said her family has been buying mandarins from them for generations. Turns out the Loomis, CA mandarin farm has been in the Struble family since 1918 and was planted in 1956. In 1961 the Struble boys sold their first mandarins from paper bags out of their garage and they continue this tradition today. (more…)
Last year we were exploring new farms around Elk Grove, CA and found Fog Willow Farms hidden along a country route. The farm is located just outside Sacramento and takes only about 20 minutes from downtown Sacramento and Folsom to get to. It’s in a gorgeous rural community off the lazy Consumnes River that seems hidden away from the hustle of the city. (more…)
Most of our fruits and vegetables are grown locally. We try to only use organic and local in our home cooking as much as possible. We do buy some of our produce at Costco or the grocery store and when we do we try to buy California grown organic products. One of our favorite brands is Earthbound Farms. We buy their salad mix and carrots when we can’t get to farmer’s market or the farmstand that week. I like that the brand is semi-local (less than 200 miles away) and is creating more organic farmland in our state every year. Earthbound Farms has over 50,000 acres of organic agriculture in their network of growers. On a small piece of that land sits the adorable Earthbound Farms Market and Organic Cafe in Carmel, CA. This place is exactly what Carmel means to me, earthy bohemian and artistic California chic.
We travel to the Monterey and Carmel area often because my younger sister lives there and both my brother and sister went to boarding school there. For years we have been staying out our favorite hotel, The Hyatt Regency Monterey, and exploring all that the area has to offer. Because we travel so often we often stock our room with our own food and try to eat as clean as we can while we are there.
A friend that also travels to the area often mentioned we should try the Earthbound Farm for lunch one day on a recent trip. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t been there before or even heard of it! I tried looking on Google and found it was difficult to even find the address and then found the Yelp page and we were on our way.
When we pulled into the parking lot I was instantly obsessed with this perfect local stop. Earthbound Farms started with a 2.5 acre organic raspberry farm just down the road from the current farmstand in 1984. The farmstand was opened 8 years later and then expanded to the farmstand and cafe in 2003. Earthbound Farms has brilliantly put a quaint authentic face on their large agriculture brand and allows locals to engage directly with the people who provide food to thousands of consumers around the country. By allowing people to see how the brand started and sample what they produce now families are able to interact directly with a company they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to know.
The cafe was our first stop after finding our way into the farmstand building and we were hungry and ready for lunch. Led by Executive Chef, Sarah La Casse, the cafe offers organic menu choices that showcase Earthbound Farms produce and allows guests to understand her passion for fresh and flavorful food that utilize the palette of the fields right outside her kitchen. The cafe also serves as a creative venue for recipe tasting and sampling new food combinations. The menu board shows what is available and it is kept simple and straightforward. Every day there is a meat and vegetarian grilled panini for $8.95 that changes throughout the day, a market salad for $8.95 and choice of 2 soups, cup for $3.95 and bowl for $5.95. A salad bar offers all the Earthbound Farm specialties and big wood bowls for those that want to make their own at $8.99/lb. There is also a kids’ menu that includes organic grilled cheese on house made bread for $4.95 or peanut butter and jelly for $3.95. Organic and fair-trade coffee along with frozen yogurt completes the simple approach to dining menus.
There are shaded tables just outside the farmstand main entrance and a larger group-dining area with picnic tables in a cooler open barn area. Sitting outside on the patio we were so entertained by the fields and gardens surrounding us we all relaxed and chatted for much longer than vacation lunches ususually last with a 3 and 5 year old. I ordered the kale and white bean soup with house-made French baguette slices, Ben got a sliced Italian meat panini and the tots each got grilled cheese sandwiches. We finished lunch off with organic chocolate frozen yogurt and made our way through the gardens that had been tempting us throughout our lunch. Everything we tried was perfectly prepared and didn’t leave us with that post-vacation regret.
Walking through organic gardens after a nice meal might be my favorite afternoon activity with children. The Gardens include a kid’s garden, herb garden, berry patch, flower garden and more. Each are of the garden areas are accessed through gorgeous arbors and paths that make the whole experience more adventure than teaching. We were the only people in the gardens during our visit and our children could just run and explore without fear of bothering anyone or getting lost. We tasted raspberries right of the vine, admired flowers and learned about organic farming methods all while being immersed in a storybook like environment that each of us could appreciate.
The Gardens also play host to private and public events throughout the year. Posted events include educational days, craft days and more.
We returned to the market after our garden tour to stock up on local fruit to have in our hotel room during our stay. Prices might be higher than other local farmstands only considering the location of the place in one of the highest rent areas of the state along with the ease of purchasing so much in one stop makes the prices realistic for a travel budget. Not to mention more affordable than dining in local restaurants. The market stays full year round of Earthbound Farms produce that is all organic and locally-produced. There is a refrigerated section that includes take-away deli selections perfect for easy hotel lunches and dinners. Bakery choices are available too along with gourmet specialty grocery selections and Earth-friendly gifts. Definitely where I am going to be buying souveniers from now on. A flower stand outside offers specatular organic flowers featuring what’s local and in season. We made off with overflowing baskets of strawberries, blueberries and fat juicy peaches we demolished in the car before we even hit the main road. Having fruit and vegetables as snack options in our hotel room when we travel is one of my travel secrets and this place makes it easy and fun to do just that.
Earthbound Farms Farmstand and Cafe is open 9:00 am to 6:00 pm daily and is located at 7250 Carmel Valley Road Carmel, CA. The Farmstand and Cafe Facebook page is the best resource to view upcoming events and valuable information. A dirt parking lot and restrooms with running water are available to guests.
This is not a sponsored post and is a real review of a place we like.
I have been hearing more about dry-farming lately. It’s not the first I have heard of the practice. Back when I worked in the wine industry I worked for some of the most famous ultra-premium wineries in Napa and Sonoma and many of our vineyards were dry-farmed. At that time wineries with dry-farmed grapes were getting rewarded with top reviews and bringing in the highest dollar value with wine conoisseurs. Now, with the California drought continuing it seems like more farmers and consumers are becoming aware of the practice and supporting it. Interestingly enough, California utilized dry-farming during the 1800’s and even through part of the 20th century until modern agricultural practices shifted to less use of the practice. (more…)