Monday, August 06, 2007

Capay's bounty - New Nut Tree shop offers harvest of valley's finest products

Capay's bounty

New Nut Tree shop offers harvest of valley's finest products

By Shelly Meron/Business Writer

Article Launched: 08/05/2007 06:38:12 AM PDT

Thomas Nelson, president of the Capay Valley Farms Shop discusses the fresh produce and other items that are produced in the Capay Valley. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

With all the activity going on in the Nut Tree Plaza lately, it would be easy to overlook the Capay Valley Farm Shop. Tucked inside the Nut Tree Market Pavilion, the shop is a place where the bounty of 42 Capay Valley farms and ranches are sold.

Next to the large, heirloom tomatoes are ears of corn and bright peppers. The pantry section has shelves bearing honey, nuts, sauces, jams, dried fruits, vinegars, oils and more.

If You Go
WHAT: Capay Valley Farm Shop's Farmers Festival, with live music and free samples from participating farms and ranches
WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Bocce ball plaza in the Nut Tree Plaza

A sampling of some of the items available at the Capay Valley Farms Shops that recently opened in the Nut Tree Market Pavilion. The items are all produced by the farmers and ranchers of the Capay Valley. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)


Nearby, piles of natural wool, decorated gourds and wreaths sit waiting.

A whole table is devoted to lavender products, and on one side of the counter is a wine tasting bar. Next to it, plates of samples - juicy Crimson Sweet watermelon, and some of those bright, heirloom tomatoes with basil and mozzarella cheese - are waiting for customers, enticing them to order items like an heirloom tomato sandwich or three-melon salad from the shop's deli.

The shop is the product of a collaboration between farmers in the Capay Valley, an area stretching along Highway 16 in unincorporated Solano County that includes the towns of Rumsey, Guinda, Brooks, Capay, Esparto, and Madison.

Thomas Nelson, president of the shop, said the store exposes Vacaville residents to all the goodness that comes out of the Capay Valley - without having to drive to get it.

"One of the goals was to have a place where people can come and experience Capay Valley," Nelson said. "We're trying to bring that farm product directly here to Vacaville. Instead of food traveling 2,000 miles from farm to fork, we want to keep that to under 50 miles."

Opening the shop was a project Nelson began exploring as a student at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.

He had previously led a non-profit organization in Capay Valley that started the "Capay Valley Grown" label. Nelson said he saw many community development opportunities and went back to school to gain new skills that would later help him organize the shop.

Today, he lives at the organic, 250-acre Full Belly Farm in Guinda, where his wife, Judith Redmond, is a co-owner. The farm grows a variety of produce and flowers, and also raises chickens, sheep and cows.

Bringing 42 different farms and ranches together was no easy task. But Nelson said those who are participating "recognize the benefits of working together. There's strength in doing that."

The shop is "community-owned," with 25 shareholders, and Nelson credits all those who are involved with getting the shop up and running.

"It was truly a community effort," he said, "Kind of like an old-fashioned barn raising."

Since the store opened in July, Nelson has heard many compliments from Vacaville shoppers. He said many of them are becoming increasingly concerned about where and how their food is produced, and are looking for fresh, local food.

"People know where their food is coming from and they develop a relationship with the person who grew it," Nelson said of the products available at the Farm Shop, citing recent concerns about food coming from China.

The shop helps Capay Valley farmers market themselves and compete with products from places like China and Chile.

Since all the products are fresh and local, the shop will always be stocking something different, which is the best part, according to Nelson.

"Things change by the season," he said. "It's fun to see the changes, to taste the changes."

The Capay Valley Farm Shop is located at 1661 E. Monte Vista Avenue, suite 104. For more information, visit Shelly Meron can be reached at

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