America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital serves up something for everyone
With a population of just over 500,000 people, Sacramento, the capital city of California, is every bit the urban metropolis that one may imagine. Yet the city known as the Farm-to-Fork Capital of the country, is more than a cosmopolitan convergence of sidewalks, pavement, freeways, and streetcars. Rated as one of the top 10 urban forests in the nation – it becomes quite obvious quite quickly that this city literally has more life to it.
Go for the trees
While many cities protect historic buildings and sections with policies and legislation, Sacramento takes it a step further and does the same thing for its trees. Stay for any length of time in the City of Trees and you’ll not only hear the term ‘tree canopy’ but the cozy term will likely become part of your vernacular. No other U.S. city can touch Sacramento’s 23.6% tree canopy (the percentage of trees with branches 10 inches or longer). Globally, only Vancouver and Singapore have more trees per capita than Sacramento.
Curious to see and experience the famous tree canopy of Sacramento, a love of good food and music, and to understand more about California – a state whose residents seem to be flocking to Texas in droves – I wanted to learn more. Turns out, Sacramento is the fastest-growing city in California and I was about to learn why.
True enough, touching down at the busy airport I had the distinct impression I was in the countryside – far outside the city. 12 miles away, my conveniently located downtown hotel awaited, surrounded by old growth, and well-cared-for trees giving it a decidedly suburban feel.
Due to its unstable economy and a cost of living that is driving many people to other states, California has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Yet Sacramento, even for Californians, seems to be its own outlier where prices are more moderate and the city (perhaps it’s that tree canopy?) has a stable, secure feel to it. The city is easy to walk and even easier to catch an Uber or Lyft (don’t be surprised if you’re picked up in a Tesla).
Go for the food
Farm-to-fork or farm-to-table concepts are experiencing a surge in popularity across the nation but Sacramento has lived this concept for decades. Nearly two million acres of farmland surround the city which is one reason why the city is also recognized as the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America. Since 2013, Sacramento has celebrated its regional agriculture by bringing chefs together in what has become one of the nation’s most anticipated culinary extravagances. The annual Farm-to-Fork Festival is held every September.
This “fresh food party” attracts more than 100,000 people and in that relaxed, free-spirit California vibe the festival doesn’t stop with the farmers, ranchers, and chefs or the craft brewers and vintners. An ACL-type stage with live music and enthusiastic fans is located at one end of the blocks-long festival. Music is a natural fit in the city that was the original home base of Tower Records. Vinyl-loving enthusiasts won’t want to miss having a meal at Solomon’s Vinyl Diner located in a former Tower Records store and be sure to venture upstairs to see the walls and walls of record albums.
Go for the year-round farmer’s markets
A year-round growing season means farmers markets are also year-round and those numbers proliferate in the summer. The largest Certified Farmers Market in the state is in Sacramento. A farmers market visit is a must-do and you’ll want to plan more time than you may think – local entrepreneurs handcraft everything from clothing and jewelry to candles and gifts and the fresh fruit and food vendors who make food from places like Africa, Poland, Spain, and Ukraine encourage sampling. A Sacramento farmer’s market is an excellent place to absorb the small-town feel of the city and the relaxed vibe of its residents.
Go for the murals
Discovering the farmer’s markets offers the opportunity to discover the murals the city is also known for. Street art is every bit as prolific as street food and only the most ambitious of visitors can manage to spot the more than 80 murals in the city. Sacramento takes its street art so seriously they have initiated a Wide Open Walls Festival that invites artists to paint every year. The festival offers an artist line-up just as the Farm-to-Fork festival offers a musical line-up.
Go for the history
For history aficionados, the city of trees, food, murals, and music also serves a healthy dose of yesteryear. Sacramento is (amazingly) also known as ‘River City’ because two square miles of the city is water. In the 1800s, gold was discovered and the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers became a trading and mining epicenter – later it was referred to as the Gold Rush.
Stroll along cobblestone streets past historic buildings and schools at the Old Sacramento Waterfront where you’ll find restaurants and shops including Evangeline’s Costume Mansion, a notable costume shop that occupies two 19th century buildings. The transcontinental railroad started in Sacramento in 1863 and the California State Railroad Museum is located near the impressive riverboat in this quaint section of the city.
Sacramento will not disappoint. Visitors may find they’ll go for the food and stay for the music, or go for the murals and become enchanted with its history. Experiencing the tree canopy alone makes the visit worthwhile. Whichever you choose, the city of trees, music, food, murals, rivers, and history is one to add to your bucket list.
Cover Photo Francisco Chavira
Haven Lindsey resides in Taos, NM. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience writing on topics including healthcare, addiction, public policy, education, travel, food and human interest stories. She was recognized by NPR for her solo travel series exclusive to Texas Lifestyle Magazine. Haven’s second book, The Blue Dog and The White Horse Tales of Friendship, will be published by Brandylane Publishing in 2024.