If there was ever a cult following for a Sonoma County food, it may just be the strawberries grown by Farmer Lao.

IMG_8092And rightfully so. These berries are amazing. Always perfectly ripe, refreshing and juicy, they will fill your kitchen (or car on the way home) with the sweet, fruity smell you can only experience with high quality produce that was picked at its peak.
If you’ve driven West on Highway 12, you’ve seen the stand. Its an unassuming white plywood structure in a dirt lot, just outside of the city limits. When it opens for the season depends on the berries, and the hours are more or less inconsistent. But while it’s open, you’ll likely see a line of people and a lot full of cars. A few years ago, a facebook group started, allowing Farm Loa strawberry devotees to crowdsource if the stand is open. You can often find cherries and stone fruits available as well, which Loa brings from his brother-in-law’s farm in Lodi.
IMG_8094Now is the perfect time to stock up the freezer and get your preserves made. The berries are plentiful and perfect. As the season continues, he gets so busy and berries often get rationed, allowing only one basket a person. At only $3 a basket, they are a perfect snack to bring home. My favorite way to eat them is sliced and tossed with just a drizzle of honey for a divine and simple dessert, or topped on toast with fresh ricotta cheese.
These berries are a cry away from stiff and cardboard-like ones you can get at the supermarket. And forget about the pesticide-loaded ones sold on street corners! Even the beautiful berries found at the local markets don’t seem to be quite as amazing.
I have yet to figure out exactly what the secret is. While not certified organic, Farmer Lao says he doesn’t use pesticides. Perhaps his fruit is so great because he treats the plants with respect. Maybe it is a special variety he’s developed for just himself. It could be they are picked at the perfect moment. Regardless of his methods, I’m glad Farmer Loa is here to share them with us!