I guess you could say my kids are city slickers. We live in Southern California, where the roads are all paved, four-footed animals are on a leash, and the only stretch of green grass is at a local park. Central California is only a 2-3 hour car ride over the Grapevine, but it is a different world – and a good one at that! The best stone fruit I have ever tasted – peaches, plums, apricots, and more – comes from this fertile valley. It is truly the bread basket of California with rows and rows of grapevines for raisins, almonds, tomatoes, carrots, cotton fields, fruit orchards, and just about every variety of vegetable.
Off to the Central Valley
It was an unusually warm day in February when we left the Los Angeles area and entered the Central Valley. We were on our way to Kingsburg, a quaint Swedish town, where farms stretched out for miles. The Jackson Family Farm Stay was our final destination; a family-run organic farm set on the banks of the Kings River that invites guests to stay at their farm. As we drove down the main drive to the farm, the blossoms were already out on the fruit trees and the roosters were crowing. The setting sun cast its warm glow on the family’s large home surrounded by flowers and towering oak trees. Peace seemed to descend on our minivan even as my kids eyes lit up seeing the pool, small play set, tennis court, and open spaces they could explore. I knew a weekend of relaxing and new experiences were ours to enjoy but what I didn’t know was how blessed we would be to spend time here.
Our first real introduction to the farm stay came from the friendly manager, Courtney. We were shown into the Sunset Room and immediately felt at home. All of our normal expectations for a nice hotel stay were met in this brand new and beautiful 2 story suite. In fact, it was nicer than most hotels we have stayed in! There was no TV, but that was just how we like it. After getting settled in and receiving a large batch of fresh-baked muffins for breakfast the next day (along with a stocked fridge of organic yogurt, OJ, butter, and milk), we started exploring. We roamed all over the property and enjoyed the peace and quiet. We were joined by Chaney, the family dog, who became like our tour guide and followed us all the way down to the river and even took a swim while we hunted for golf balls in the sand. We quickly decided, this was better than a hotel stay. We love the open outdoors with space to explore and this suited our desire for adventure and peace all together.
The next morning we took a farm tour with Mr. Jackson himself. Rob, as he is generally known, walked us through his orchards of pears, plums, and oranges. We learned about his different techniques for organic pest control, natural fertilizer, and how they prune their trees to maximize production. Chickens roamed in the orchards and were part of the equation of pest control and fertilizer. Two Great Pyrenees dogs live with the chickens and protect them from predators and they treated us like instant friends. They were gentle and friendly with our kids and followed us as we gathered eggs from the chickens. And yes, my city slicker kids collected eggs! They even learned to gently reach under a sitting chicken to check for any eggs. I was so proud.
An unexpected blessing from this farm tour was getting to hear the plans and visions that Rob has for his farm. His ideas for building lodging for wwoofers (people who live farm to farm and work exchange on organic and sustainable properties), creating a school for students to learn to farm, not to mention his most immediate plan to start having almost 3,000 chickens in his orchards, was almost overwhelming for a detail-oriented person like myself. Like us, if prayer is what you need, Rob will take the time to encourage visitors through prayer. The fruits of his labor are apparent everywhere.
This farm stay was more than just a mini-vacation, it was a getaway in a wholesome environment. As we sat under an arbor on the patio furniture while the kids splashed in the jacuzzi, we found ourselves resting and smiling. We picked the most delicious navel oranges from the family orchard and then later, while we bbq’d meat on the grill, our older boys ran down to the river and searched for golf balls again. It’s a rare hotel or vacation that families can find a sense of safe freedom for their kids to shake off their city boundaries and just be kids again.
Watch a video on our stay at Jackson Family Farms:
Disclosure: My family and I were invited guests of the Jackson Family Farm. Although we thoroughly enjoyed our stay, all opinions are our own.