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By Sharan Street
Published Nov 27, 2023

Rodin Farms Fruit Stand lies along one of the “stroads” in Stanislaus County, and a widening of the highway could drive the longtime landmark out of business. Rodin Farms Fruit Stand lies along one of the “stroads” in Stanislaus County, and a widening of the highway could drive the longtime landmark out of business. Image credit: Photo courtesy Rodin Farms

Season’s Eating

As the weekend of Thanksgiving leftovers draws to an end, we’re thinking about our publishing partners, Sacramento Digs Gardening. Every day, SDG’s Debbie Arrington and Kathy Morrison dish the dirt on horticultural happenings in the greater Capital Region, and much of their advice is applicable for gardeners throughout the state. They’ll also no doubt keep an eye on how to adapt to the newly released—and much more detailed—USDA plant hardiness zone map, last updated in 2012, which proves what gardeners have already noticed: temperatures are rising.

White cookies on a red plate with a sprig of green mint leaves
Find holiday cookie recipes and more in SDG’s new cookbook, “Taste Fall!”
Photo by Kathy Morrison/Sacramento Digs Gardening

Arrington and Morrison also produce quarterly cookbooks, sponsored by Sacramento-based Green Acres Nursery & Supply, the most recent of which serves up fresh ideas for homemade holiday gifts. Think of new spins on old favorites, such as a pumpkin spice latte cake or persimmon cookies—or something completely different, like a holiday casserole featuring chayote, a Mesoamerican squash that grows like a weed in California backyards.

Even non-gardeners can enjoy both these recipes and California’s seasonal bounty by visiting a farmstand, where one can buy directly from a grower. Some are simple affairs—hand-lettered signs with bags of produce for the picking. But since agriculture is big business in the Golden State, some roadside stands have grown into bona fide tourist attractions.

Taking a Stand

Woman with a bag of oranges at a rustic wooden counter

One reason we’re thinking about farmstands now is the dilemma facing Rodin Farms Fruit Stand, which sells fruits, vegetables, nuts and gifts year-round at the busy intersection of Claribel and Oakdale roads in Modesto. More than a year ago, Antoinette Rodin (pictured) heard from Stanislaus County that five acres of land from her family’s farm—on land purchased by her grandfather in 1941—would be taken by eminent domain as part of the North County Corridor project.

Rodin is still in negotiation with officials of Stanislaus County, trying to secure enough compensation from the eminent domain takeover to preserve the stand, which is the first stop on the Visit Modesto Almond Blossom Cruise, an attraction that brought almost 100,000 visitors to Stanislaus County in 2022. Rodin says that if the stand has to move, it will cost more than $900,000 for a rebuild—in addition to the income lost by removing 100 trees from her orchard.

Earlier this month the Modesto Bee reported on Rodin’s story and the issues surrounding the 18-mile North County Corridor, which “is broadly described as an expressway to bypass east-west traffic around Modesto, Riverbank and Oakdale and connect the eastern portion of Stanislaus County to Highway 99.”

It’s not the first time the Bee has covered the plight of locals losing ground to the North County Corridor, which will affect some 60 parcels. Its purpose is “to improve traffic circulation across the county, enhance safety and promote the movement of goods and services.”

Stanislaus County and neighborhing San Joaquin County are already plagued by “stroads”—busy thoroughfares that combine aspects of the city street, designed for places of business and residences, with those of the road—a high-speed connection between two destinations.

Will widening one stroad to chew through more farmland change anything? There will still be traffic congestion and traffic fatalities. The new route may help Yosemite-bound tourists and Amazon delivery trucks barrel through the county more quickly, thereby aiding “the movement of goods.” But perhaps not local goods, since the commercial centers of small cities like Riverbank and Oakdale will be bypassed.

For now, though, Central Valley residents can still stop by Rodin Farms Fruit Stand. And if you’re not near that part of the Big Valley, see our story below for other places around the state to enjoy California’s agricultural heritage.

Roadside Attractions

Fresh and dried fruit, wine, nuts and more can be found at Casa De Fruta, a venerable stop for drivers traversing Pacheco Pass.
California is the top agricultural producer in the U.S., and a top beneficiary of visitor spending. So naturally, we’ve got fun, food-driven tourist magnets.

Fudge Match

Though this website usually keeps its focus within California’s borders, we felt we had to take note of an event in Alpharetta, a city in the Atlanta metropolitan area. That’s where Fox News is staging DeSantis vs. Newsom: The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate, with California’s own governor facing off against his Florida counterpart—two politicians who, between them, represent almost one of every five Americans. We recommend whipping up some seasonal sweets and settling in to watch the slugfest—and the pundit parade that will follow.

Newsom vs. DeSantis Fox News Debate Set for Nov. 30

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (left) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (right) will face off in a Fox News debate on Nov. 30.
Governors Gavin Newsom (D-CA) and Ron DeSantis (R-FL) are set to face off in a debate Nov. 30 with unexpectedly high stakes, as polls now show both underwater in voter approval ratings.

How California Works


As the most populous state in the union and the fifth largest economy on the planet, the state of California can be confusing and hard to understand.

So we wrote a book which explains how democracy and the civic fabric work together in 'the most American state.'

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