Hwy. 1: Exotic berries galore at the Swanton farm stand

Road Journals Blog—Driving north on Hwy. 1 between Santa Cruz and Pacifica isn’t all about staring at the views over the ocean to the west. Look to your right and you’ll see acres of cropland, with many family-run farms that have been in the area for generations.

One of the newer operations is the Swanton Berry Farm, founded by two self-described “dreamers” in 1983, who felt they could turn organic, cooperative farming principles into a sustainable business. Jim Cochran remains as part-owner of the business nearly 30 years later, and is in the process of turning it into an employee-owned cooperative.

Olallieberries on the vine. | Flickr/Foodista

Their network of leased land now grows a huge variety of berries, as well as kiwis, artichokes, and pumpkins, among other crops.

I stopped by their roadside shop 12.5 miles north of Santa Cruz to slurp up some sample jams. The building, on the grounds of one of their farm sites, serves as a combination jarring operation, retail counter, and roadside lounge.

I hadn’t heard of olallieberries or tayberries, but these locally created strains combining blue and blackberries were quite tasty.

When it came time to pay for a jar of jam, I found that the staff had wandered off to fertilize a fern or something. But they left their honor cash register open for me to leave cash and make my own change. (Bicyclists (with helmets) are allowed to take 10 percent off of the price of their order.)

Things are just more mellow by Hwy. 1.

Q: Where do you get your berries? Do you have any great tips?

Bill Fink wrote about Highway 1, from Santa Cruz to Pacifica, for VIAmagazine.com.

This blog post was first published in February 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.