I just learned of the passing of local farmer Suzanne Peabody Ashworth, who died of Alzheimer’s on Dec. 23 at the age of 70. One of Sacramento’s most influential farm-to-fork figures, she helped develop organic farming in Yolo County and supplied organic produce to most of Sacramento’s leading restaurants. Her company, Del Rio Botanicals in West Sacramento, sold CSA boxes to the community. Ashworth was a teacher, author, master certified herbalist and nationally renowned seed saver whose heirloom squashes were once photographed for the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine. She was a friend, confidant and adviser to local chefs, including Paragary Restaurant Group’s Kurt Spataro, who used to drive out to her Peabody Ranch four or five times a year to learn from the woman he considered a master. Together, they would walk the fields where she grew rare and unusual heirloom fruits and vegetables, sampling Pakistan mulberries or cactuslike cristalina leaves and discussing how Spataro might incorporate them into his menus. “She’s an awesome resource,” he told me several years ago after one visit. Ashworth used to have him out to the farm for lunch, and he’d often bring employees with him to learn and be inspired. Once, Ashworth had him milk a goat just for the experience. “Every time I come, I learn something,” he said.
Chefs simply loved her. Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney’s B&L touted her as “the queen of farm to fork,” and Origami owner Scott Ostrander called her a “profound influence” and her contributions to Sacramento’s farm and restaurant scenes “remarkable.” “There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ve eaten something that she’s grown,” he wrote in a Facebook tribute.