No Place Like Sweet Home (Sweet Home Ranch produce at Sigona’s)

No Place Like Sweet Home

Sweet Home Ranch in Dinuba, Calif., provides us with certified California Clean stone fruits that burst with sweet, tree-ripened flavors of summer.

Sweet Home Ranch. Just the name evokes the image of an idyllic setting amongst rolling hills and green rows of crops, don’t you think?

It’s in Dinuba, Calif., near Fresno, that third-generation farmers Paul & Ruth Buxman work such a landscape. They operate Sweet Home Ranch growing some of the sweetest, most succulent and tree-ripened peaches, nectarines, Santa Rosa plums, oranges, Concord grapes, mandarins and more.

All locally grown summer stone fruit we carry from Sweet Home Ranch is fantastic and what makes unique is the growing method.

All Sweet Home Ranch produce is certified California Clean, which, in short, means the fruits are grown using no organic or synthetic pesticides. This certified farming system protects the environment, supports small family farms, and delivers extraordinary produce at an affordable price. It’s one of the first eco-label movements in the state that works to discover and promote cleaner, more eco-friendly ways to produce nut and stone fruit crops.

It might not be certified organic, but captures the idea embedded within. Buxman also uses integrated pest management (IPM), which is a rotation of beneficial insects to help eliminate harmful pests and the need for pesticides. In fact, Sweet Home Ranch received the E.P.A’s first ever Integrated Pest Management Innovators Award for advancing the reduction of pesticide use.

But there’s more to it than that. California Clean is also a way of life for the farmer, the land and its workers.

Other criteria for being California Clean, a collaborative that Buxman founded in support of environmental farming, require each certified farm to be family-owned, and that the family must live on the farm. What’s more is that at Sweet Home Ranch, workers come first; they are considered family, and family is important to the Buxmans. Free babysitting is available on site for the children of all workers, and each worker is given a vacation every year to visit their families, with Buxman paying the transportation bill.

Buxman also reserves a portion of his land for his workers to grow their own crops, providing all of the necessary water, equipment and fertilizers needed. In exchange, he says he’s received extreme loyalty from his employees. The Buxmans have a green thumb AND a big heart.

“For us, farming is a matter of being good neighbors and good stewards of the land entrusted to us,” said Paul. “Our fruit grows in a natural environment, surrounded by songbirds, ladybugs, grassy undergrowth, and snow-melt irrigation, making for a great farm, great soil and great food.”

Once picked, the fruit from Sweet Home Ranch is delivered directly to the stores. In fact, Sigona’s is one of the handful of retailers Paul to which Paul delivers! Buxman doesn’t deal with wholesale, instead, he eliminates the middleman and his fruit spends less time on the road burning oil. As such, the fruit also arrives fresher and has been picked riper.

Fruit that’s too ripe to travel falls into the hands of Ruth Buxman who makes it into preserves, which we also sell. The fruit travels from the tree to the stove without leaving the farm, and the family stands at the stove making homemade preserves in small batches. Each jar is then stamped and hand-signed by either Ruth, Paul or their son. It’s another family affair.

We’ll carry Buxman’s fruit from Sweet Home Ranch throughout most of the summer. Make sure to look for the California Clean signs up in our store – you can’t miss them.

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