by Joanna Metheny
Located just off of River Road at 21386 S. Murphy Road right here in Ripon, Jessop Farms has 22 acres of u-pick blueberries, cherries, and strawberries. A true family business, the Jessops live on the property, and are devoted to not only offering visitors the chance to pick delicious summer fruits at their peak ripeness, but also the opportunity to create lasting family memories.
Started by owner Loren Jessop, the farm opened to the public nine years ago. Jessop had a vision of creating a u-pick experience, where families could linger and create new traditions. In order to maintain duties at his regular day job, Jessop only opens the farm to the public during the relatively short six-week-long blueberry season. Each weekend during the open weeks, the farm holds a special event. On Memorial Day weekend, staff served up over 100 lbs. of blueberry pancakes to visitors. The breakfast is entirely donation based, and there is no charge to come and eat. This year, the fundraising event raised over $1000, all of which was donated to Wounded Warriors.
Another favorite event was last weekend’s annual tea party, which had over 100 guest pre-registered. Jessop loves putting on the tea party as it typically draws out multiple generations within a family, and he draws great joy from being able to provide them a place to create a cherished memory together. In addition, all the pastries provided for the tea party were provided by downtown Ripon’s Burgess Bakery. Those who frequent Burgess and enjoy their pastries will be happy to know the berries for the pastries are all sourced from Jessop Farms.
Produce doesn’t get much healthier than this. Visitors can pick berries at their peak of ripeness, sun-warmed and straight from the field. None of the produce is sprayed with pesticides, so have no fear if the little ones are sneaking berries during the picking. In addition to the u-pick fruit, the farm has a bounce house, playground, tetherball and basketball, mini golf green, and plenty of shade and sitting areas. Jessop encourages families to bring their lunches, have a picnic, bring a cooler of cold beverages, a picnic blanket, and hang out a while. There are bathrooms, and cold bottled water is available for purchase.
Jessop’s traditional day job involves installing playground equipment. The fruits of which can be seen on the farm’s playground, where there is a very unique giant wave-shaped rope swing. This swing was actually a cast-off from a trade show Jessop was working. The farm was the lucky recipient of a product that didn’t sell, and the swing was promptly installed on the playground where it provides countless happy children with hours of enjoyment.
Each season, Jessop Farms draws several thousand visitors weekly. In addition to many locals, the farm has visitors from all around, including Sacramento and Fresno, and even as far away as Milpitas and San Jose. There are also many school groups who regularly visit, as the berry season nicely coincides with the winding down of the school year. Several regular groups hail from Modesto and Stockton, and Colony Oak Elementary has made Jessop Farms an annual field trip for the past 7 or 8 years. The farm also has accessible parking and restrooms, and Jessop is proud to be able to provide a fun experience for visitors from several area special needs schools.
Jessop shared with us some of his best berry picking tips. He recommends finding a bush loaded with berries, and staying there, as opposed to picking just a couple from one bush and walking down the rows to get a few berries here and a few there off of many bushes. Sticking with one bush will ensure collection of the most berries. The easiest and most efficient way to get berries off the bush is to cup a hand underneath and then use the thumb to roll them off. For those looking to do something with the blueberries beyond just snacking on them, the Jessop Farms’ website has several favorite blueberry recipes, including ones for blueberry pie, muffins, and popsicles.
While the season is fleeting, there is still time to come out and pick blueberries. Some of the late season blueberry varieties are just starting to ripen and there is still plenty of fruit on the bushes. This weekend Jessop Farms will be holding their annual 5K / 10 K fun run, which typically marks the winding down of berry season. The course will wind through the orchard, and offers participants a great opportunity to have some competitive fun in the fresh air. Make sure to grab berries while you are there as the farm will likely be open for only another week or so until closing for the season.
About the author: For nearly a decade, Joanna Metheny has been a freelance writer specialized in the coverage of local topics and community interest stories. A Central Valley transplant and Bay Area native, Joanna permanently relocated to Ripon and hasn’t looked back once. She loves the city’s proud agricultural history and small town feel. Joanna enjoys spending her time in the community, tending her garden, and discovering local secrets along Ripon’s backroads.