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The Sacramento region is home to almost 8,000 acres of boutique farms producing everything from microgreens to heritage cattle. Here’s a look at just a few of these hardworking farms.
This story appears in the September 2013 issue of SACRAMENTO. Sign up for a subscription to SACRAMENTO magazine here.
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1. BLUE HERON HOP YARD
In 2012, farmer Sean McNamara teamed up with Ruhstaller founder J-E Paino to plant nearly an acre of Chinook, Cascade, Nugget and Centennial hops for the brewer’s vintage Hop-Sac ale series. It’s the first commercially produced Sacramento beer since Prohibition to feature locally grown hops—a signal moment for the farm-to-pint movement.
2. PASSMORE RANCH
This freshwater, sustainable fish ranch started off selling live fish at local farmers markets and was quickly discovered by local chefs such as Ella’s Randall Selland. Now, owners Michael and Vandy Passmore supply white sturgeon, black bass, trout and more to some of the nation’s leading restaurants, including Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, Rick Moonen’s rm seafood in Las Vegas and Ad Hoc in Yountville.
3. SOIL BORN FARMS
This nationally recognized nonprofit urban farm grows organic produce for local restaurants, food banks, farmers markets and CSA customers. Soil Born has a strong educational component, offering cooking classes, summer camps and a farming apprenticeship program. This year, the farm’s annual Autumn Equinox celebration (Sept. 21) helps kick off Sacramento’s weeklong Farm-to-Fork festival.
4. WATANABE FARMS
Farmer Heidi Watanabe grows more than 50 varieties of heirloom tomatoes on 7 acres, along with squash, microgreens and edible flowers. Her customers include name-brand restaurants such as Ella, Grange and Mulvaney’s Building & Loan, along with regular folk who frequent her stand at the Sunday farmers market under the freeway.
5. FULL BELLY FARM
Certified organic since 1985, this charmingly named operation is a working farm with cows, pigs and sheep, but it primarily grows crops such as melons, corn and tomatoes. The farm hosts weddings, farm dinners and the annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival (Oct. 5), a daylong celebration with hayrides, tours and workshops.
6. CAPAY ORGANIC
Founded in 1976 by Kathy Barsotti and Martin Barnes, this is one of the region’s original organic farms. Today, the family’s second generation grows more than 150 varieties of fruits and vegetables on 700 acres, supplying CSA subscribers through its Farm Fresh To You program. The picturesque farm hosted prestigious Outstanding in the Field dinners in 2012 and 2013.
7. TWIN PEAKS ORCHARDS
Founded in 1912, this fifth-generation family-owned farm grows fruits year-round, including apples, cherries, persimmons, pluots, 20 varieties of nectarines and 30 varieties of peaches. It offers ranch tours, a farm stand, a you-pick operation and free fruit tastings. Customers include Whole Foods Market in Roseville.
8. LOVING NATURE FARM
This 168-acre farm, known for its CSA program, grows everything from amaranth to zucchini—all without chemicals. Customers can come out to the farm and pick their own produce.
9. GOLDBUD FARMS
At an elevation of 2,800 feet, farmer Ron Mansfield grows simply amazing stone fruit, Fuji apples, and Bartlett and Asian pears. In Vogue magazine, dining expert Jeffrey Steingarten raved about Mansfield’s Elegant Lady peach, calling it “scrumptious—juicy, melting, sweet and just acidic enough.”
10. PIERCE’S FARM
Owners Mary and Rodney Pierce grow 30 heirloom tomato varieties, including Bull’s Heart, Pineapple, Mule Team, Lemon Boy and Brandywine. This farm is the sole tomato purveyor to Hawks in Granite Bay.
11. DINNER BELL FARM
Growers Molly Nakahara, Paul Glowaski and Cooper Funk met through UC Santa Cruz’s farm and garden apprenticeship program. A few years later, they started the ranch with $30,000 and a passion for sustainable farming. The trio raises heritage-breed chickens and Mangalitsa and Mulefoot pigs, and they recently began growing fruits and vegetables on the 45-acre ranch.
12. MADISON GROWERS
Grower Nick Atallah studied ag and irrigation at UC Davis, then went on to teach irrigation at the American University in Beirut. After retiring, he started a farm on 20 acres, building greenhouses to extend the growing season for his cucumbers, melons, peppers and other produce. For pest management, he receives a weekly shipment of beneficial insects from Holland.
13. DEL RIO BOTANICAL
On 200 exceedingly diverse acres, the legendary Suzanne Peabody Ashworth uses open-pollinated seeds to grow 2,000 varieties of organic herbs, vegetablesand fruits. She grows to order for leading restaurants, including The Waterboy, Masullo and Grange. And for CSA subscribers, she offers a “gourmet” box with the same exotic produce the restaurants get, such as Italian cucumbers, Early Lady beans, calendula petals and baby squash with their blossoms attached.
14. CALIFORNIA ENDIVE FARMS
Rich Collins first tasted braised endive while working as a dishwasher at a Sacramento restaurant and later began growing the leaf vegetable at his boss’ suggestion. Now, his farm is the largest American producer of endive. The product is sold nationwide at Whole Foods Market and served at Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Yountville.
15. APOLLO OLIVE OIL
This family-run business produces extravirgin olive oils from organically grown, cold-pressed, locally milled olives. Known for its fresh, complex flavor, the oil has scooped up more than two dozen gold medals throughout the years.
16. LUNDBERG FAMILY FARMS
Albert and Frances Lundberg came to California from Nebraska in 1937 and, moved by the devastation they witnessed during the Dustbowl, pioneered their now-famous organic rice-growing techniques. The family grows numerous types of rice, including basmati, Arborio, jasmine, brown, wild and sushi. Their Black Japonica is the star in Magpie Cafe’s popular black rice salad.
17. LUCKY DOG RANCH
Restaurateurs Ron and Terri Gilliland (Roxy, Lucca) raise all-natural Angus beef on open pasture—no antibiotics or hormones. The beef is finished on a mix of alfalfa, brewers grain and almond hulls, then dry-aged 21 to 28 days. It is sold at local farmers markets and Taylor’s Market in Land Park, and it shows up on Roxy’s menu in dishes such as Lucky Dog Ranch meatloaf with Ruhstaller 1881 ale barbecue sauce.
18. CHOWDOWN FARM
Brian Douglass and Kristy Lyn Levings raise rare and heritage breeds of chicken, grass-fed lamb and game such as quail, guinea pheasant, chukar and rabbit. At certain times of the year, they also supply cockerel for cooks interested in making coq au vin or cock’s comb soup.
We Californians feed the world. The state’s 81,500 farms and ranches export products to many countries around the globe.
ALMONDS | APRICOTS | ASPARAGUS | BEEF | BLUEBERRIES | CHERRIES | ENDIVE | LEMONS | MANDARINS | MELONS | NECTARINES | OLIVES | OLIVE OIL | PEACHES | PEARS | PISTACHIOS | PLUMS | RICE | TANGERINES | TOMATOES | WALNUTS