Ag Goes Urban: Explore Chico’s Rich Farm-to-Fork Scene

Chico is widely known for the many things it grows, from Chico State’s active agricultural sector to the farm-to-fork produce of the city’s many local growers. But Chico is unique in the way it’s perfectly settled amid the green pastures of Butte County, giving it both a rich farm and garden scene and a surprisingly urban ag experience you can see up close.

Take It Home

Chico State’s 800-acre University Farm is one of the best-known agricultural icons of the area, serving students since it was founded in 1960. It also serves the local community through the student-led sale of its products at the university Meats Lab, the Organic Vegetable Project’s popular CSA membership, and the annual Peach Pick event, which allows anyone to come and pick their own fresh peaches straight from the trees at the farm.

But agricultural education is far from the only way that you can experience local food in Chico. CSA memberships abound, from the innovative, no-till Burns Blossom Farm and its organic produce to the certified organic Comanche Creek Farms, just a few miles from downtown. You can purchase a variety of vegetables from many farms at Chico’s ubiquitous farmers markets, or pick up their produce from local shops such as the Chico Natural Foods Co-Op, S&S Market, and New Earth Market.

Chico also has farms like Massa Organics and Chico Rice that provide fantastic Northern California rice in a region already famous for it. Anywhere you are in the city, you’re never far from something home-grown.

Elle Wiley and the community came out to pick peaches during the U-Pick Peaches event at the Paul L. Byrne Memorial University Farm on Monday, August 9, 2021 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer/CSU, Chico)
Students at the Chico State Farm (Jason Halley/University Photographer/Chico State)

Eat in Season

Restaurants in Chico are often unlike what you’ll find elsewhere because they take advantage of this same farm-to-fork mentality. It’s hard to walk a block downtown without stumbling on an eatery serving up something grown nearby, and there are any number of places that focus on delicious local cuisine.

Farm Star Pizza is a prime example, with both family-friendly pies and unique, elevated creations all loaded with 100% organic, in-season, locally produced ingredients (including vegan and vegetarian items). Not to be outshined, Drunken Dumpling also works to provide local, hand-made slow food in its menu of Asian-fusion dishes (and you might even spy the owners at a local farmers market!).

Downtown favorite Grana focuses on locally oriented menus that change with the season, going so far as to include blood oranges from its own yard in some of its offerings. And the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Taproom restaurant has a hyper-local focus, with both an estate garden and a certified organic kitchen garden on brewery grounds, both of which use compost produced on site.

Farm-to-fork food from Drunken Dumpling
Drunken Dumpling (photo courtesy)

Grow Your Own

If you’ve got a green thumb or aspire to create your own home garden designs, Chico is home to first-rate nurseries, garden shops, feed and seed supply stores, and more. If you plan to take home local produce, make a little extra room for something green from The Plant Barn & Gifts, which offers starter vegetables, berry plants, leafy greens, and all manner of herbs. You can stock up on seeds and seedlings from supply companies like Northern Star Mills, or even pick up heirloom vegetable starters at Fair Earth Nursery, perfect for making your own urban garden.

Ag Goes Urban: Explore Chico's Rich Farm-to-Fork Scene 1
Flower Bulb Planting at Fair Earth Nursery (Photo courtesy Seasonal Garden Works)

Chico’s farm-to-fork and agricultural obsession is in evidence everywhere you look, and there is no better place to get close to the things you love to eat. Few places have such a rich, urban culture paired with a love of all things that grow, so whatever community you come from, Chico will find a way to make you feel more in touch with your food than you’ve ever been before.