Cal Poly’s Kellogg Ranch Farm Store: Farm Fresh Is Just 10 Minutes Away

November 1, 2009
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0133After just returning from the Northwest and visiting several fresh produce stands there, I wasn’t quite ready to resume shopping at Stater Brothers, Vons and Trader Joe’s as I regularly do.

I wanted that fresh-off-the-farm experience to last a little longer – and I found it at the Farm Store at Cal Poly Pomona.

I shot down the 57 freeway, exited Temple Ave., turned right and headed west toward the campus, where I made a left at South Campus drive. The drive took about 10 minutes. At the signal, I saw a vast orange carpet, which I thought was a field of marigolds or California golden poppies.

“No, they’re pumpkins,” I excitedly said to my wife Colleen, as if I had just discovered the biggest pumpkin patch on the planet. That they were, I was to learn a few minutes later from Farm Store manager Dawn Taccone. Workers had placed 75,000 of them from its local fields for Cal Poly’s 29th annual Pumpkin Festival. The festival had passed, but it was still a calming sea of orange on a blustery gray day – it was as if the sun had melted right in front of us – a lava flow of deep orange neatly corralled inside a white barnyard fence.

After picking up three good-size pumpkins for only $2 apiece, I entered the farm store. Never having been, I didn’t quite know what to expect. My first impression was Trader Joe’s meets Bristol Farms meets Tom’s Farms. Even if the store is a profit center for the University, it didn’t feel like it. It’s completely student run, except for Taccone, who is also an instructor in Cal Poly Collins College of Hospitality Management. She says her students, once hired, never quit.

Who would? Students and customers are surrounded by every earthly delight you could want  – a cornucopia of citrus, a plethora of peppers, a glut of gourds, an Eden of endive. The persimmons and pomegranates didn’t look pretty, but they looked fresh, and wholesome and nutritious, as nature intended.

Farm Store Manager and Cal Poly Instructor Dawn Taccone holding a copy of the Southern California favorite, "Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes" by Jeanne Kelley.

Farm Store Manager and Cal Poly Instructor Dawn Taccone holding a copy of the Southern California favorite, "Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes" by Jeanne Kelley.

There’s a station for fresh orange juice that will make you forget Minute Maid in a second.  The Valencia oranges again are grown on nearby Cal Poly Pomona ranches. Another nook in the stores serves fresh honey produced by local bees that you pour yourself like beer on tap.

Not all of the produce is produced locally, but enough is. The farm store is putting forth the effort to sell a variety of produce from its fields, and that local garden-to-table effort is worth supporting.

As divine as nature is, the Farm Store also offers an amazing array of packaged and bottled goodies. It’s one of the few outlets, where you can purchase Dr. Bob’s Ice Cream, the perennial award winner at the Los Angeles County Fair with exotically and intensely rich flavors like Tahitian vanilla, peanut butter chunk, brown sugar pecan and cappuccino crunch. Dr. Bob is Dr. Robert Small, who along with Bill Baldwin (of Hartman-Baldwin, a design-build firm in Claremont) founded their creamery in 1999.

Gleaming away in another bright refrigerated case are glass bottles of Broguiere’s eggnog and chocolate milk and eggnog.

“The chocolate milk is like a chocolate shake,” Taccone said. “It’s amazing.”

Another turn in the Farm Store puts you in the path of rows of cherry, strawberry fig, blackberry jams and jellies. Walter Knott, founder of Knott’s Berry Farm, would be envious. Next to the preserves are shelves of peach butter, fig butter, cherry butter and pumpkin butter. Who knew the world didn’t live on apple butter alone, which it also carries.

From salsa to sorbet to fresh-picked strawberries when in season (late February through May) the Farm Store is a fun place to shop, to wander, to refresh and to indulge. Pick your pleasure, and the Farm Store will even put it a gift basket and ship your selections anywhere in the world.

Valencia oranges at 59 cents a pound

Valencia oranges at 59 cents a pound

Many of the gourmet items may be too rich for student budgets, but that’s the whole idea. For those everyday foodstuffs, they can run off to the supermarket (Actually, the Farm Store carries a small selection of these pedestrian items, including ramen). But for a choice peach, pear or persimmon, at the right price, they’ll do no better than the Farm Store.

That’s a good lesson learned: Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables supplied by the same source to which you trust your education.

The Farm Store at Kellogg Ranch

4102 S. University Drive, Pomona

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily

(909) 869-4906

An hour at the farm can be had for an easy 10-minute drive from La Verne.

An hour at the farm can be had for an easy 10-minute drive from La Verne.

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