“The Year of Food” in Sacramento: Longtime Local Farmers Make it Possible

At last night’s much-anticipated state of the city address in Sacramento, Mayor Kevin Johnson – along with addressing news for the Sacramento Kings – declared 2013 to be the “Year of Food” in Sacramento.

Named America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital in 2012, Sacramentans are more and more conscious of how good they have it, but some have been working behind the scenes for decades to bring the city to the enviable spot it now holds.
Suzanne Ashworth of Del Rio Botanical in Sacramento
Suzanne Ashworth is one of the Sacramento region’s farm-to-fork pioneers. Owner of Del Rio Botanical near Sacramento International Airport, Ashworth and her husband regularly have classes with the region’s chefs – teaching them a thing or two about ingredients.

Ashworth has the pedigree for the job, too. The 80 acres of Del Rio Farms hold the first organic certification issued by Yolo County, and her grandfather – who started the farm back in the early 1900s – was a member of the first graduating class from UC Davis.

Most of Del Rio’s produce is sold to Sacramento restaurants, and it’s farm-to-fork fresh within 48 hours in most cases.

Sometimes, however, it’s quicker.

“The other day, Waterboy needed some produce, and they put in an order in the morning, and we had it to them in time for dinner that night,” Ashworth said.

Being able to get food directly to restaurants in such a short amount of time is what makes Sacramento America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. But it’s not just restaurants that can get Del Rio Farms produce directly – CSA boxes are available for nearby residents.

Consumer Supported Agriculture boxes are full of fresh, seasonal organic produce.
Sacramento farm-fresh produce
“They get a good mix of stuff,” Ashworth said. “They also get something each month that they’ve probably never seen before.”

One of the lesser-known bits of organic produce grown at Del Rio Botanical is a naturally hollow celery stalk. Ashworth said she sells it to Midtown Sacramento’s Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar, where it is used in the restaurant’s Bloody Mary drink because it can be used as a straw.

Ashworth recently remodeled the kitchen in her farmhouse, and it’s a kitchen that would do any chef proud. Beyond her own passion for the culinary arts, she said she hosts groups of chefs, including Sacramento’s Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney’s B&L and Pajo Bruich of Enotria.

The connection between farm and restaurant is critical to ensuring the chefs know what is being grown and can see what, exactly, they can do with some of the more obscure fruits and vegetables to expand their own menus and develop new items.

Ashworth said she has been involved in agriculture her whole life, and she is glad that Sacramento is getting recognition for its farm-to-fork scene.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “We’re seeing more chefs coming to us, and the average person is really becoming more aware of where their food comes from.”