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.
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.
“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.
Sí, 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.