From an acidic kick to the warm taste of pears and apples, each sip of cider reveals the history and bounty of local agriculture.
Hemly Cider offers organic, unfiltered, flash-pasteurized nourishment in every can. No concentrates or additives. Sarah Hemly, founder and president, adds fresh juices of cherry, kiwi, Meyer lemon and mandarin orange after pasteurization. When she finishes, flavors of each fruit step forward.
Pear trees take up to eight years to produce. Hemly uses fruit from Courtland pear and apple trees dating from 1860. The land was bought by a relative of Sarah’s husband Michael Hemly for $600 in 1850. The cider company began in 2015. The family has farmed and nurtured this delta land for six generations.
On a winter’s afternoon, golden light casts shadows over a fence that marks the Harper Junior High School garden. I walk with Meghan Covert Russell, executive director of the Davis Farm to School program, and Garry Pearson, who coordinates garden volunteers. Green tips and soft leaves of garlic, spinach, beets, sugar snap peas, broccoli, radishes and cauliflower unfold on the ground.
As we walk the garden rows, wider than normal to allow access, Pearson says he sees kids with their counselors come to the garden to “just veg out.” Covert Russell explains how the garden, “especially after COVID, connects students to each other and their school sites again. They get their hands dirty, and have the best time pulling weeds.”
Relationships distinguish the farm-to-fork movement. While farmer-to-chef seems like the obvious partnership, one joy I get from this column is digging beneath the surface to see a myriad other relationships that bring food to our tables and connections to our neighborhoods.
Researching last month’s column on the city’s Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Program, I met Earl Withycombe, a landowner, community activist and incentive zone pioneer.
He told me how as a landowner he collaborated with city officials to help develop the zone program and work out details so other landowners might benefit.
Imagine a Sacramento where every few blocks community gardens flourish. Where we have access to the food bounty of our region. Where we can walk with our kids, parents or partners to harvest grapes, pomegranates, broccoli heads, mustard greens and basil tops.
In almost every neighborhood, a vacant and unimproved lot awaits cultivation. The ghosts of fig trees whisper potential.
One day not long ago, I visited the International Garden of Many Colors with the Del Paso Heights Growers’ Alliance co-directors.
The 3-acre garden is cultivated primarily by elderly immigrants from Russia, Ukraine and Afghanistan. The Growers’ Alliance worked with the Sacramento Food Policy Council to help preserve the garden and supply it with essentials such as city water.