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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, specialises 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, liquorice and Jordan almonds.

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Laura Flippen

Central California

Discover the Central Valley

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Average (°C)
Sept - Nov
Sept - Nov
Mar - May
June - Aug

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 down the middle of the state, are cities and towns rich with history, international culture, and 'everyone’s welcome' charm. 

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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


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

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Laura Flippen
9 Great Central Valley Farm Stands HagginMuseum_CV
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 centrepiece of Stockton’s stately Victory Park. The 34...

California's Heartland

California's Heartland
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The Tehama Trail is a surprisingly fertile area—a prime place for farms and ranches. Many invite visitors to stop in and buy fresh produce, artisanal olive oils, and other local food products.

The trail links together nearly two dozen vineyards, orchards, and grass-fed beef ranchers and...

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Bakersfield is full of surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, this Central Valley town is morphing into an arts, culture, and sports hub, while still offering a glimpse of the past. Visit Colonel Allensworth State Historic...

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Kodiak Greenwood

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

Map of Shasta Cascade
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


Take to the water on a deluxe floating home

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

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

California Delta

A boater’s and fisherman’s paradise awaits

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

Lodi Wine Country
Dale Goff Photography

Lodi Wine Country

Sample the city’s famous Zinfandels after a day of outdoor fun

Best known for big red wines, particularly old-vine Zinfandels, the American Viticultural Area of...

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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.
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Courtesy of Buck Owens Crystal Palace


Experience California’s oil-rich history, with Basque food and country western music on the side

This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, Bakersfield has...

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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...