I love buying food directly from farmers and ranchers, especially when I'm traveling. Local foods represent the culture and climate of their origin. When I meet the farmers and ranchers and buy their products I feel a better understanding for the area AND I get some really great food. It's a win - win!
I spent the past 2 weeks traveling and want to share with you my 2 favorite food stops on the I-5 freeway in Northern California. The Olive Pit and Heath Ranch.
- The Olive Pit in Corning, California (north of Redding, CA) is a 40+ year old family owned enterprise selling all things olive along with touristy gifts including jams, candy and nuts. You aren't meeting any farmers, but you can buy local olives and nuts. Sited in a old Denny's type of building, it's not a visually interesting store, though it is clean and neat. Order an ice cream or hamburger at the snack cafe, enjoy the very clean restrooms and a huge parking lot with RV spaces. Ask and the staff will show you the local olives and products, including organic olives and organic olive oils. There is also a selection of imported olive products. My favorite product is the Olive Muffuleta, an Italian style olive salad that includes bits of cauliflower, carrot, garlic, capers, peppers, onions and spices. It comes packed in either brine or olive oil (my favorite). Pour the Olive oil packed Muffuleta on pasta for an instant head-start on a pasta salad or hot entre. You can order online from them if you aren't up for a drive.
- Heath Ranch (south of the Olive Pit). 4814 County Road 99w, Orland, CA. 530-865-3472. This is a small ranch owned by Ron and Melanie Heath. From the barn behind their home the Heaths sell organic olive oil, oranges, local honey and whatever else they or their neighbors might be growing that time of year. This is a very small operation -- they don't have bathrooms (they do offer a porta-potty) or air-conditioning. They do have DELICIOUS homemade olives, fresh olive oil, oranges and honey that is well-priced. They don't have a website. Here's how to get there: From I-5 take Road 7 exit #671. Go East on Road 7 to Hwy 99w. Go South on Hwy 99W - 200 yards.