25 Swanton Road
Davenport, CA 95017
In 1983, on a dream and a prayer (and a beat-up tractor), Jim Cochran and Mark Matze rented four acres of land and planted them with strawberries. The goal was to harvest organic strawberries on a successful commercial basis. Others—including Cesar Chavez—had undertaken such dreams, but it still seemed a long shot. Fast-forward to 2011: Jim (Mark has since moved to Argentina) receives the National Resource Defense Council’s Growing Green Food Producer Award.
Today, Swanton Berry Farm encompasses 200 acres in five different locations, organically harvesting a cornucopia of produce in addition to its ever-popular strawberries. And it still maintains an ambitious “dreamer” mentality, doing right not only by the earth, but by the good folks who till it. Swanton is one of the first and only farms to have a union, offering its farmers and migrant workers a fair shake—plus the opportunity to build equity in the farm. Mr. Chavez would be proud.
The Swanton Farm Stand in Davenport is a whimsical old barn stocked with colorful tables, books, and board games. Then there’s the expected array of goodies, from fresh-picked fruit to tangy jams, decadent truffles, and everything in between (purchasable, it should be noted, by an “honor till”). Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the fields, brush up at the stand’s history and nature displays, or stock up on frozen berries or flats of jam. (And, yes, you may even run into Chavez’s grandson, who is known to stop in from time to time.)
When the season is right, visitors to the Davenport farm can also pick their own organic strawberries (8 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily). U-Pick options are also available at the Pescadero site where, depending on the time of year, you can pluck plump olallieberries, blackberries, or kiwis (Friday through Sunday 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.) Berry prices vary. The farms provide containers, but you are welcome to bring your own.
Visitors are also encouraged to bring a picnic for enjoying at the ranch. And if that isn’t enough, the farm offers a 10 percent discount at the Farm Stand and U-Pick for anyone who bikes in. Be sure to bring layers, as it gets chilly on the coast.
Read about more Bay Bay Area farms.
Take Caltrain to San Jose (one hour) and catch the bus 17 to Santa Cruz Metro & Pacific Station (1 hour). From there walk or bike about a mile to the farm. Note that with transfer times, the journey could take up to four hours. For a day trip, driving is probably a better bet, but check out Zimride to set up a carpool with folks going your way.
Photos: Swanton Berry Farm