When you eat an almond, it’s highly likely that it came from this central part of California, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the United States.
California produces about two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts, much of it coming from the fertile San Joaquin Valley, the southern portion of the Central Valley. Drive along the back roads in this rich farm territory to appreciate this agricultural wonderland and buy food directly from hard-working producers.
In addition to purchasing the freshest produce as you happen upon roadside stands, use the California Agricultural Tourism Directory to plan ahead for interaction with local farmers. From San Joaquin in the north to Kern in the south, the eight San Joaquin Valley counties feature experiences including wine tastings in Lodi, goat farm tours in Sanger and a citrus grove maze in Ivanhoe. Look for u-pick harvests ranging from cherries, pluots, pumpkins and tomatoes to lavender and Christmas trees. Farm stays offer work and fun on the land accompanied by delicious meals prepared from local produce.
The region’s long growing season means you’re likely to see various crops in the fields throughout the year. From February to March in Fresno County, observe the delicate petals on fruit and nut trees along the 62-mile (100-kilometer) Blossom Trail. Return in summer to enjoy bounteous seasonal produce. The city of Fresno also has artist studios, the Chaffee Zoo and the Forestiere Underground Gardens, a subterranean complex hand-dug by an Italian immigrant in the early 1900s.
Stop in the California Welcome Center in Merced for information on things to do in the region. Walk around the cities of Stockton, Modesto and Bakersfield to see 100-year-old buildings and museums explaining the region’s development. Combine your trip to the valley with visits to Yosemite National Park and San Francisco, each a 2-hour drive away.
Bring your family to the San Joaquin Valley for fun and flavorful education about where food comes from.