Jammin’ on the Pacific Coast Highway

A rusty Ford with a giant strawberry in its bed caught my eye.

So I pulled off the Pacific Coast Highway, drove past an old barn with a green star on it, and parked in the gravel lot.

The sign read Swanton Berry Farm. I walked through the door of a little wooden shack into a bright room buzzing with people. I hadn’t expected so much energy inside such a lonely looking outpost.

Time for berries and a game of backgammon in the jam-tasting room.

I also hadn’t expected the handmade truffles or the snazzy variety of jams on offer, or the board games and books that decked the tables.

Olallieberry, Tayberry, Rhubarb, Strawberry Citrus, and Loganberry jams — each tickled my tongue in turn.

But what I really wanted were some of the juicy-looking strawberries for sale.

And it was when I went to buy them that I saw it; a thing of odd beauty I had never seen before.

The Honor Till.

The young man behind the counter laughed at my expression.

“Yes. We trust you,” he said.

Sam Lustig and The Honor Till.

“It just feels wrong taking money out of the till,” I said.

“But you put more money in than you take out. That’s the beauty of it.”

I learned that his name was Sam and that he’d been working at Swanton Berry Farm for five years.

“I stopped in one day,” he said, “just like you, and I never left.”

He also explained that it was the first unionized organic farm in the U.S., and that Cesar Chavez’s grandson still stopped in every once in a while.

se puede.

To think I almost drove right past this humble little farm.

With berries in hand, I hit “the 1” refreshed — and ready for more surprises.

Follow Shannon’s adventures on Twitter @CuriousTraveler and on Instagram @ShannonSwitzer

Shannon is photographing with an Olympus PEN E-PM1 and an Olympus Tough TG-820.


  1. […] Last spring, National Geographic’s resident travel blogger Shannon Switzer made a stop at Swanton Berry Farm and was quite charmed. Check out her account here.  […]

  2. Shannon Switzer
    July 17, 2012, 4:04 pm

    Tessa- Yes, the honor till was refreshing Tessa! I’m pretty sure logan berry is an actual berry!

  3. Tessa
    Carlsbad, Ca
    June 18, 2012, 3:43 pm

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE that they have an ” Honor Till”, I’ve never heard of that before! I also love that it’s organic! Is Loganberry an actual berry, or a blend of citrus and berries?

  4. Shannon Switzer
    June 18, 2012, 3:26 am

    Ben, the Tayberry was my favorite…sweet and tangy! Michael…if you only swap a few of the letters out, it comes very close to Gross Berry Farm. Ha! Or as I would call it….the Grocerie’s Berry Farm.

  5. Michael
    June 17, 2012, 12:11 am

    Close, too, to Gross Berry Farm.

    Love your pictures and descriptions!!!

  6. Ben
    June 15, 2012, 8:02 pm

    So close to Swanson Berry Farm, which jam was your favorite?