One Woman's Dream Comes to Life in Capay Valley
Five years ago living life as a farmer was merely a dream to Sherri Wood. She was living in San Francisco and working in the banking industry. A few years after her husband passed away in 2014, she finally began adjusting to the fact that she was on her own. She also realized there was nothing preventing her from pursuing her childhood dream of owning land and becoming a farmer.
She got out a map and drew a circle around San Francisco representing everyplace within two hours of the city that could fulfill her dream. She happened to take a day trip to the Capay Valley during the Almond Festival and instantly fell in love with the area, and felt right at home. Eventually what started off as maybe a one acre venture turned into a 28 acre farm now called Capay Valley Lavender. In 2018 Sherri purchased the land her farm is on now and she has never looked back.
Capay Valley is a hidden gem in Yolo County, just north of the Bay Area and a short drive on Highway 16, north west of Sacramento. It lies between the Blue Ridge Hills and the Capay Hills. Originally the home of the Patwin, or southern Wintun people, it is now the home to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation Tribe. This area is filled with family farms, wineries, olive groves, olive mills and flower farms, and it has tons of charm. It's not a surprise Sherri picked Capay Valley for her farm.
It turns out lavender grows really well in the Capay Valley and requires very little water — and that's a good thing, because Sherri literally had zero experience with farming or agriculture when she began this venture. She plowed a diseased almond orchard and began planting right away. She grows both fragrant French lavender and culinary English lavender.
Capay Valley Lavender is also certified organic. Sherri now proudly calls herself a farmHER. Currently there are 12,000 lavender plants on 5 acres. She also grows pomegranates, figs and blackberries. So as not to let any piece of this rich land go to waste, she sharecrops her farm with others such as Matt Shiffrar, who grows blacked-eyed peas
Within a few short years Sherri has been able to plant, harvest and sell her lavender to makers of both spa and culinary products.
As if farming wasn't enough, she is now making her own products as well. Drying bundles and buds in the 1930's barn on the property and distilling the buds into oil in two copper distillers humorously named Fred and Ginger. Organic lavender essential oil, derived from Lavandula angustifolia, is one of the most popular and versatile essential oils used. It promotes relaxation and is believed to aid in treating depression, anxiety and even allergies.
You can find Sherri's products on the Capay Valley Lavender website — everything from sachets to Lavender Spiced Walnuts (my favorite), almonds, body scrubs and lotions. With big plans to build a greenhouse and picnic area, she is all set for next year's Lavender Festival at the end of May and a Holiday Open House the weekend before Thanksgiving. Throughout the year she hosts workshops such as how to make your own wreath, soap, candle or body scrub. Capay Valley Lavender can host private groups as well, with a minimum of 8 people, perfect for a bachelorette party!
The best time to visit is in late April and May, before harvest. Row after row of purple blooms are buzzing with bees, with the Capay and Blue Hills in the background... it does not get more picaresque than this.
When I visited the farm at the end of May, Sherri's face was pink from the heat and from exertion, and her hands were, well, farmHERy, with hints of soil under her nails. But her face and eyes have a brightness to them that tells me she is living her dream and is right where she is supposed to be. Sherri shared with me, "It was a dream to live in a rural community. I am touched, each and every day, at the beauty of the Capay Valley and the spirit of community that exists here It’s a joy to share the farm with visitors. That said — oh my goodness, I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I am thankful to the other farmers and growers who provide clues to the many puzzles that crop up."
Meet the FarmHER - Sherri Wood of Capay Valley Lavender