For those who like eating – and who doesn’t? — the Sacramento area has any number of iconic attractions, places that have attracted people for years and have become part of the fabric of life of the area. There’s Vic’s on Riverside and Gunther’s on Franklin. There’s the Lucky Café downtown and the Virgin Sturgeon on Garden Highway. There’s L’il Joe’s on Del Paso.
And further out, there’s another popular site – not a restaurant, but a farm – that has lured customers for 37 years.
The Davis Ranch is in Sloughhouse, about 20 miles east of downtown on the Jackson Highway – okay, Highway 16, if you want to get technical – and it’s a great destination for a day trip. If you’re on a Furlough Friday, it’s an inexpensive trip with a chance to get some great veggies, and more.
The ranch’s rep was launched in 1972 when it started selling sweet, white corn to passersby from a roadside stand. Selling corn originally was sideline, a way of getting some extra cash. “People would line up for hours to buy it from us back then, because fresh corn was not available back then,” said ranch founder Ed Davis.
The corn, available through the summer from late June, is still the ranch’s signature product and it helped put Sloughhouse on the map. Indeed, many Sacramentans refer to the sweet corn as “Sloughhouse corn.” Corn –yellow and white –is grown on part of the ranch’s 500 acres and brought straight to the market site by trailer-towing tractors, which dump the fresh corn into a sorting area. From there it gets placed on the counters in bags of six, a dozen and 24 ears. The time from picking to selling is a matter of hours.
Since the early 1970s, the ranch’s retail products have diversified dramatically. It’s even got its own website, www.davisranchproduce.com
Now there are green and purple peppers, an array of summer and winter squash, pickling and regular cucumbers, onions, cantaloupe, hot peppers, watermelon, yellow wax beans, flat peas, gourds, pumpkins, tomatoes, beets, okra and fruit in season brought in from the surrounding area.
After harvest season, the ranch still has attractions, offering fall and winter products – including a huge selection of pumpkins for Halloween and at least four kinds of Christmas trees. The ranch has been growing trees since 1983, and they sell them from the day after Thanksgiving to just before Christmas. Customers cut their own.
There also seems to be a harvest festival for everything. In late June, there is an early Gas Engine and Tractor Show, which features historic models of farm tractors and equipment provided by a local association. The following month, there’s the annual Davis Ranch Corn Festival.
Then, in August, there’s the Annual Davis Ranch Chili Cookoff and in September there’s the Annual Davios Ranch Gourd Festival, which is perfect for parents and children. The festival includes gourd artists from all over the West Coast, live entertainment, bounce houses, pony rides, tractor rides and a corn maze.
In 1992, the Davis ranch was purchased by the three partners that operate it today – Donald Davis, James Davis and Rick Grimshaw, and the name of the ranch was formally changed from Ed Davis & Sons to Davis Ranch, LLC.
“In 1993 we started to expand and renovate to bring in more items and stay open longer during the season,” Davis said.
“We now farm 500 acres, of which 50 are devoted to Christmas Trees alone. Each year we begin planting in February and open for business in late May, and stay open until the end of Christmas Tree season (December 21st) of each year.”