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Laura Flippen

9 Great Central Valley Farm Stands

9 Great Central Valley Farm Stands
Sample fresh, seasonal produce and artisanal foods, and chat with local farmers

The fertile Central Valley stretches some 450 miles from roughly Orland south to Bakersfield—the pancake-flat belly of California. Farms and ranches unfurl to the edge of the horizon—blooming fruit trees in spring, head-high corn and brilliant yellow sunflowers in summer, russet grapevines in fall, lush lettuces in winter.

Farm stands dot the region, especially in summer. Look for hand-painted signs proclaiming what’s fresh and in season, then pull over to buy a pint of just-picked strawberries, or perfect peaches for your picnic, or maybe a jar of local wildflower honey for a sweet souvenir. Some bigger farm stands have become year-round destinations in themselves, with petting zoos, on-site bakeries, and irresistible gift shops—and even wine-tasting rooms. Here are some worth a detour, listed north to south.

 

Manas Ranch, Esparto

This Yolo County stand is open only from June until November but is acclaimed for its six varieties of peaches. The ranch also grows apricots, cherries, peppers, and more, but peaches rule, with an assortment of all-peach cookbooks, T-shirts, and hats. Watch through the big window as peaches get sorted into “first,” “second,” and “soft” rankings (the latter is prime for cooking or canning), then pick up some local jams (like the popular Triple Berry) and honeys to take home.

 

Soul Food Farm Stand, Vacaville

This olive orchard and farm stand in Solano County specializes in olive oils and hydrosol lavender, the latter made from the sweet-smelling herbs grown on the family farm. It also hosts regular farm-to-table diners and occasional Vintage Marketplaces, lined with local antiques dealers and food vendors.

 

Phillips Farm Café Bakery, Lodi

This farm store and cafe is known for its fresh produce and tall fruit pies, but it’s aligned with another great Central Valley crop: Lodi wines. The store is affiliated with Michael David Winery, on the same property, which produces such Syrahs and Zinfandels as the Freakshow Red and Seven Deadly Zins.

 

The Fruit Bowl, Stockton

The Lucchetti family farm has been growing peaches—now 60 varieties—and more since 1947. Choose among dried fruits and nuts, or pick up baked goods like muffins, breads, and pies. The Lucchettis also salute their Italian heritage with on-site biscotti, panini, and gelato.

 

Simonian Farms, Fresno

This family farm goes back four generations, and now grows 180 varieties of fruits and vegetables. Its barn-style store has a huge variety of dried fruits and nuts, along with a wine-tasting saloon and a “Route 66” shooting gallery.

 

Fresno State Gibson Farm Market, Fresno

Sample the wares of tomorrow’s farmers and producers at this store stocked with goods grown and created by students and faculty at Fresno State University. Taste jams, nuts, coffee, and the university’s own TailGate wine (it’s the first college in the nation to have winemaking as part of its educational plan).

 

Hudson Farms, Sanger

Located along the Fresno County Fruit Trail, this family farm stand specializes in peaches, plums, and nectarines—including some varieties you won’t find in your local supermarket. It’s open from June through September, also offering lots of tomatoes, Armenian cucumbers, and ornamental cut flowers. If you can’t cart away a bushel, you can at least take home some of their recipes, like those for Blushing Peach Pie and Lemon Blueberry Tea Bread.

 

Bravo Farms, Traver

This store and restaurant started in Traver as a place to buy the family’s artisan cheese. Now it has four locations—also in Visalia, Tulare, and Kettleman City—and offers a variety of produce and products from the Central Valley as well as barbecue, antiques, and an acclaimed house lemonade. Regulars love the cheese curds to go.

 

California Fruit Depot, Bakersfield

This farm store outside “Bako,” as many locals call it, specializes in their own sweet navel oranges and Coachella Valley-grown Medjool dates. The stand is open year-round, but peak sweetness for the oranges starts in December and lasts well into May. You’ll also find a variety of nuts, olives, licorice, and Jordan almonds.

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#Farm2Fan: California’s Melt-In-Your-Mouth Kiwifruit
Pint-sized fan Tristan shows us how his favorite way to enjoy this superfruit at Luke Wilson’s kiwifruit vineyard in Gridley, California.
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Laura Flippen

Discover the Central Valley

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54
November
Average (°F)
Sept - Nov
91°
High
43°
Low
Dec - Feb
62°
High
38°
Low
Mar - May
84°
High
46°
Low
June - Aug
98°
High
62°
Low

California’s heartland offers up one of the state’s most authentic and sensory-rich experiences, a chance to see—and taste—the state’s bounty at every turn. Follow oak-shaded country roads to farm stands overflowing with fresh produce, and meander along wine trails to some of the state’s most productive vineyards and low-key tasting rooms.

Peaches, plums, apricots, and tomatoes—just some of the ultra-fresh produce you will find at farm stands throughout the valley.

Throughout the broad valley, stretching for over 400 miles/644 kilometers down the middle of the state, are cities and towns rich with history, international culture, and “everyone’s welcome” charm. 

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Mark Crosse/Getty Images

Fresno County Blossom Trail

Explore this driving loop that bursts with flowers in the spring and fruit during summer

Spring tends to kick off early in Fresno County with a fast-and-frenzied spectacle of blooming fruit and nut trees. Starting in mid-...

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Derrell McCain/Alamy

Best Kept Secret: Solano County

See why this Central Valley region holds its own in terms of good wine, pretty countryside, and cool activities

A treasure awaits about 20 miles east of Napa, in a lovely but largely “secret” area of sprawling countryside and bayfront beauty. This is...

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Find whitewater rafting fun for all—from newbies to nerves-of-steel experts

Think of a river, and chances are you’ve got your own daydream. Maybe you want to float on inner tubes, or maybe your style is to careen through raucous rapids in an eight-person inflatable raft....

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Groveb/Getty Images
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Lake Berryessa, located just outside of Winters, has a sunken city underneath it called Monticello.
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Alex Farnum

Davis

You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the perks of this ag-oriented college town

Eco-friendly, liberal leaning, progressive, impressive professor’s homes and fraternity houses—Davis has the hallmarks of a classic college...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisanal cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets...

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Laura Flippen
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Laura Flippen

Haggin Museum

Local history merges with world-renowned art at this must-see museum in Stockton’s Victory Park

Housed in an early-19th-century brick building, this handsome art and history museum is the centerpiece of Stockton’s stately Victory Park. The 34...

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Laura Flippen

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

California's Heartland

Pick fresh produce, relax in cool gardens, and learn about local farming heritage
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This relaxed city has some secret gems that make a pleasing start to your trip. Start at Sundial Bridge, a functional work of art, the remarkable pedestrian bridge, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, spans the tree-lined, trout-filled Sacramento River in Redding’s Turtle...

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This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of pleasant surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, Bakersfield is morphing into a Central Valley hub for arts, culture, and sports, while still offering a glimpse of the region’s past. One fascinating historical site worth...

April

One of California’s premier universities, University of California, Davis, invites everyone to its annual open house—a chance to learn, play, touch, taste, and enjoy the leafy campus just north of...

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Courtesy of U.C. Davis College of Engineering
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Kodiak Greenwood

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

Some 300 species of birds and mammals make this a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts

Located on the Pacific Flyway 60 miles north of Sacramento, Gray Lodge encompasses 9,200 acres surrounded by agricultural flatlands and...

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Houseboating

Take to the water on a deluxe floating home

In California, it’s hard to talk about houseboating without talking about the Central Valley. One of the state’s premier places for vacationing in...

October

Honor the harvest season at this remarkable, family-friendly event, hosted at the beautiful Full Belly Farm in the fertile Capay Valley. The valley, just north of Sacramento, has one of the world’...

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Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

California Delta

A boater’s and fisherman’s paradise awaits

Located northeast of the San Francisco Bay, this 1,000-mile network of inland waterways—the major drainage from the snow-capped Sierra Nevada to...

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Dale Goff Photography

Lodi Wine Country

Sample big, bold reds and eco-friendly winemaking

Best known for big red wines, particularly old-vine Zinfandels, this American Viticultural Area 100 miles east of San Francisco is also a leader...

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The 10 acres of rooms, passages and gardens at Fresno's Forestiere Underground Gardens were excavated by hand using only farming tools.