As part of the international student body here at Berkeley, I decided to sign up for a day trip offered by the International House (in collaboration with the Rotary Club) that was intended to take exchange students on visits to a handful of different farms and homes of traditional American, rural family life.
We started by going to Village Nursery, a plant farm that sold beautiful flowers and trees, and also seeds and gardening supplies. It was about an hour drive east from San Fransisco, over in the dry, hilly area called Contra Costa county, but they somehow managed to sprinkle enough water to keep acres upon acres of green houses as humid as a rainforest, with uncountable sprinklers keeping the vegetation alive.
Our next stop was at Smith Family Farm, where we stayed for one hour wondering what to do after walking through a corn maze that had only one path out and poking our heads into a recreated Indigenous Indian village comprised of one straw & mud teepee-like hut.
Then was Roddy Ranch, a working cattle farm where Jack Roddy, a retired rodeo champion, rode around in wranglers, a plaid shirt, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat on his stocky quarter horse saddled up in western, all the while chewing tobacco and spitting between sentences.
Then we visited a family run winery, with bottles of wine priced so cheap I had to wonder if they weren’t secretly franchised by Walmart. I bought a bottle of port for $7 and didn’t ask any questions.
Finally we went to an old-time family ranch that had been bought by the city and turned into a public park, preserving all the turn-of-the-century buildings on the lot and making them into a museum-like exhibit. A man dressed in ranger uniform (star badge and all) called Ranger Joe showed us around, with hints of a southern drawl in his stereotypical American accent, and we ended the day with a delicious BBQ dinner hosted by members of the Walnut Creek Rotary Club.
All in all it was a wonderful day tour, getting an intimate view on rural life in California, but still getting the satisfaction and curiosity of wondering “is this really how some families live, fulfilling these little quirky stereotypes you thought you only saw in movies? they must have known we were coming and staged this…”