I have a good friend who is probably the biggest fruit lover in the world. My weekly consumption of fruit can be eaten by her in one sitting. Growing up in Salinas, California, she is also very cognizant of the farming community. Farmers are some of the most hard working people. While wages are low, exposure to health hazards are high. As an individual consumer, it is difficult to make an impact but my friend wanted to do something. She decided to give up one of her favorite fruits, strawberries, unless they were fair wage strawberries. The employer would need to provide living wages, health benefits, and paid time off to farmers.
The only strawberry farm that I am aware of that provides their farmers with this level of protection is Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, California, a few miles north of Santa Cruz. I took a trip out there with a friend last weekend to check it out.
When we first arrived, we walked into the storefront. You can buy strawberries that have already been picked or grab a box and go out to the field to pick them yourself.
We arrived in the early afternoon and went out with a box to attempt picking our own strawberries. Unfortunately, we didn’t see too many ripe strawberries. We would find a nice ripe one here and there. It seemed that much of the strawberry patches had already been picked through.
I was okay with this because the berries we saw earlier that the farmers had already picked looked bright and beautiful. So we headed back to the shop to take a closer look at all of the other offerings. There was a shelf filled with jars of jam for sale which had sampling. Sweet and luxurious, I definitely needed to take some home.
I was most excited by what was in the refrigerator. They had homemade strawberry shortcake and strawberry cheesecake. My friend and I decided to share one of each. These desserts were delicious and the perfect treat to make the trip down to the farm worthwhile.
Another great thing about Swanton Berry Farm is that they trust their customers. There is no cashier, but a cash box to make your own change. A business that provides honest wages and implements an honor system is something I can appreciate.
The trip to Swanton Berry Farm was a fun experience. Next time I would arrive early to do some strawberry picking, pack a picnic, and eat more of their awesome strawberry desserts. If you don’t want to travel to Davenport, you can still purchase their fair wage strawberries at Northern California Whole Foods Markets, Monterey Market in Berkeley, and various Farmers Markets. You might have to pay a little more for your strawberries, but you are contributing to a good cause.