Spread love, spread peace, spread joy, spread jam! – Swanton Berry Farm
It was a slightly gray and cloudy Sunday, so we decided it was a perfect day for berry picking down on the coast.
It’s a beautiful drive down highway one. Stretched long, the road winds down the rocky ledge of California. On a sunny day, the inlet waters are turquoise and white sandy beaches are pocketed between high cliff walls. White foamy waves roll in and out. Eager surfers in shiny black wet suits patiently wait for the perfect wave.
As we drive down the coast, the girls are eager to taste the sunshine goodness of red ripe strawberries. Destination, Swanton Berry Farm, located just outside of Davenport. A family friendly roadside attraction offering fresh jam tasting, u-pick strawberries, and homemade chocolates.
A bright yellow truck with a giant wooden strawberry beckons us and we pull in onto a dirt road.
An old barn rises up to the right and a small store greets us at the end of the driveway. We help ourselves to a cardboard box and a handful of small green plastic pints. The u-pick fields are stone’s throw from the main farm. Rows of raised beds, wrapped in strawberry plants. Narrow footpaths set out in straight rows.
They eagerly jump in and start picking. Eating. Picking. Eating more. These are not the giant strawberries you find in brightly lit grocery stores, but instead they are small, ripe, and intensely sweet. Full mouths. Strawberry juice staining their faces and fingers.
Ava is a good picker. She quickly fills two small pints before abandoning for snacking. Mia never quite fills the bottom of her pint. All her efforts end up in her tummy. I fill just one before we are full and ready to pay for our efforts.
The berry farm runs a unique payment system called the honor till. A long red rectangular sign is painted with “Pay Here.”
Weigh your fruit, calculate the cost. It’s not expensive, just $2.50 a pound. There is a register of cash sitting on the front table. Put your money in and make your own change. Honesty is the only policy here.
We are also tempted by fresh strawberry lemonade, strawberry shortcake, chocolate dipped strawberries, and berry truffles.
Tall rows of homemade jam are stacked high and fill the counters and shelves. A row of open jam jars entice us. Choose your jam flight and test your palate. Fresh fruit bursts over my taste buds, a sweet, simple bouquet. It’s like a dessert.
Strawberry Rhubarb, Strawberry Olallieberry, Tayberry, Loganberry, Strawberry Citrus, Blackberry, and good old plain Strawberry jam. I pick up a jar to take home.
There are picnic tables scattered throughout the long room and other farm visitors are having lunch. In the corner, there is a mix of eclectic antique toys piled on old clapboard shelves.
A creepy Howdy Doody doll is sprawled out on the old leather couch. Mia doesn’t know what to think of him. She is puzzled at this strange raggedy doll. Ava discovers a miniature Etch-A-Sketch. She is fascinated by it and learns quickly how to draw. Turning the knobs to create long lines, short lines, rectangles and squares.
Some toys just never lose their appeal, I think.
Mia plays with a strange collection of miniature dolls, a giant plastic whale and rhino. They are totally engaged and do not want to leave. We stay and play for a while.
Soon it’s time to make our way back home. We stop and have lunch by the beach.
Once home, I wash and cut up strawberries and load them into bowls. A fresh dollop of whip cream covers the top, like a fluffy cloud covering a mountain.
Smiles wide, they dig enthusiastically into their bowls.
One thing is for sure, things taste just a little bit better when you pick it yourself.