Let Me Take You Down

When we need a escape from the City, we often head north. We might go to the Marin Headlands or to Mt. Tam for a hike. Point Reyes has so many of our favorite things: hikes, beaches, farms. Up north, there are apples to pick and pork to eat. But a recent trip down Highway 1 reminded me of the many reasons to go south.

First, there are u-picks right off the road. I’m a little obsessed with u-picks these days. I love the chance to seeing how things grow, I love seeing what grows in different regions, and I love the bargain prices most u-picks offer.

We picked berries at one of  Swanton Berry Farm‘s fields. As well as making a delicious olallieberry jam, Swanton was the first organic farm in the country to unionize their workers. Their workers receive health care, retirement benefits, and vacation and holiday pay — better than what many other (and likely more profitable) companies offer their workers.

Their olallieberry u-pick was already closed for the season but the strawberry patch, just north of Davenport, was open. It’s a serve yourself operation. You take a flat and some plastic baskets and then take a short walk to the u-pick field. When you’re done, you weigh your haul and pay, taking what change you need from the open till. (You can also pick up pies, strawberry shortcakes and their terrific jam there as well).

Despite the notice that this year was slim pickins for strawberries, we found plenty to pick. We were the only pickers out there on this Saturday afternoon. Maybe the gray weather kept people away or maybe most people associate strawberries with spring time.

We picked more than two people could reasonably handle, of course. There’s something about a u-pick. We always pick more than we should, whether it’s tomatoes, apples, or berries.

But our seven pounds of strawberries in the trunk of the car — enough to have strawberry shortcake for the next three weeks straight — didn’t stop us from hitting the brakes when we saw the sign that said “SLOW FOR PIE”.

This is yet another reason to spend more time on Highway 1 between San Francisco and Santa Cruz: it’s Pie Road. Swanton sells pies, Duarte’s in Pescadero is famous for their pies, and then there’s Pie Ranch, half way between the two.

Pie Ranch operates out of a barn on the side of the road. You’ll find local produce, dried beans, and you can even grind your own wheat. Or, of course, you can just buy a pie, as we did.

After all, strawberry shortcake makes for a delicious dessert, but pie and coffee is truly the breakfast of champions.

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