Updated April 18th, 2017: In addition to the long-time relationships fostered and many fruits and vegetables The Kitchen has procured over the years at Del Rio Botanical, Kitchen Chef de Cuisine Allyson Harvie personally makes a trip or two a week over to the West Sacramento Farm to talk with Suzanne, survey the farm, and forage for any extra edibles looking particularly lovely and tasty that day.
Del Rio Botanical is nestled along the Sacramento River at Peabody Ranch on Old River Road in West Sacramento. Suzanne Peabody Ashworth, farmer and proprietor of Del Rio Botanical, was literally born and raised on her farm. Suzanne’s father purchased the property in 1920, and she grew up alongside her father as he worked the land, learning everything about growing and tending to the wide variety of crops that thrive there. When Suzanne took over, she expanded the farm’s operations and goals even further. It now not only grows a stunning array of certified organic crops throughout the year, but also produces cheese, honey, wine and beer, distributes organic vegetable seeds, and hosts wine and dine tours and classes. It is truly an amazing place, a gem in the heart of the Farm to Fork region.
Del Rio Botanical grows far too many crops to list them all here, but a short survey would include arugula, chard, fennel, fava greens, beets, kumquats, radicchio, squash, turnips, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, okra, melons, cucumber, blackberries, plums, figs, and persimmons. They also make their own honey from bees on the property, cheese from their own goats, wine from their own grapes, and use their own hops for their beer. While Suzanne runs the farm, her husband Roger has the arduous, thankless task of making the beer and wine – ha! They also raise chicken and quail for eggs and rabbits for 4H. Suzanne says her favorite things to grow and eat on the farm are the cherry tomatoes, of which she grows 150 varieties!
Del Rio Botanical used to sell directly to chef and restaurants, but their operation grew large enough that Suzanne now deals directly with local distributor Produce Express, which then gets her product directly into the hands of the Chefs same-day. She also offers the farm’s own CSA boxes, where you can have a variety of seasonal produce delivered to your doorstep weekly. As if all that work wasn’t enough, Suzanne also runs an organic vegetable seed wholesale business from the farm with 1600 varieties of seed, does research on gourds for Seed Savers Exchange, ESDA and Native Seed Search, and is the author of a seed-saving guide called Seed to Seed.
And, yes, there is even more they do on this dynamic farm. The Del Rio Botanical Tour and Dine program offers opportunities to experience the farm and its delights first-hand. One example offered this year is a tour of the fields and herb gardens followed by a 5-course meal featuring vegetables, cheeses, wines, meats, and fruits all from the farm. Private instructional classes are also conducted in English and Spanish on the farm, offering expertise on topics such as Organic Gardening, Gourd Growing and Crafting, and Raising Goats and Making Cheese.
The Kitchen’s Chef/Owner Randall Selland stresses that Suzanne and Del Rio Botanical were “at the forefront of saving heirloom seeds,” and that Suzanne was instrumental in making some of the more obscure and foraged local ingredients accessible and available to Sacramento area chefs on a daily basis, thereby improving, helping, and positively impacting the Sacramento restaurant and culinary landscape. This farm and its proprietor are an invaluable asset to our community, and we are lucky to have a place like Del Rio Botanical right here in the River City.