I don’t think there’s any path you can take directly from SF that offers a quicker—certainly more breathtaking—antidote to city-living than a trip down Highway 1 to Santa Cruz. On a sunny weekend, like this last one, it was everything I needed. Find a friend to drive you, so you can gaze out to the sparkling ocean without careening off the steep cliffs to a horrible death. It’s impossible not to look.
My favorite stop-off along the way has long been Swanton Berry Farm . Twenty-three year old Swanton was the first organically-certified strawberry grower in California. (In 1987, while you were sporting your acid-washed jeans, farmer and owner Jim Cochran was doing something noble.) Swanton’s perfect berries have been sold at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and Rainbow Grocery for years. Today, they’re even grown by union labor. It should be tax-deductable to stop here.
The least direct route to Swanton Berry Farm is to take the first Swanton Road exit you see, which takes you along a very bucolic little windy road—past horses and bucolic things. (You know you’re from the city when you say, “Horses! Look, honey!”). After about 10 minutes or so, the lane drops you off at the farm right by Highway 1 again.
Pull up on the dirt next to the pickups with preach-to-the-choir bumper stickers that say things like “Got Hope?” In an old farmy building, it used to be that they sold just strawberries. But now, Swanton’s gotten a little fancy. From a glass case you can select everything from jams to chocolate-dipped strawberries and pie. Young guys with beards work there, and drink coffee from jam jars.
You can also pick your own berries, which is what we did. For $2.50 a pound, you can take a stroll out to the nearby field and harvest your own, warm from the sun. I’m not saying we did any free sampling, but let’s just say that earth to the table is overrated. Earth to the mouth—much better.