Field notes from California's North Central Valley

Full of beans

I stumbled across R. Kelley Farms online while looking for watermelons in the Sacramento area.

And while R. Kelley does offer a variety of sweet melons—from your standard watermelon to the petite French savoy, ambrosia, and Crème de crème—it quickly became apparent that R. Kelley’s specialty crop is beans.


Not just green beans and yellow wax beans, though he has them, too. But what draws many of his customers to his acreage near Clarksburg, Calif. are beans and peas more often found in cuisine from the American South and East India—black eyed peas, purple hull beans, crowder peas, speckled butterbeans and cranberry beans.

When my husband, daughter and I arrived there this weekend, several families were choosing produce from bins within R. Kelley’s on-site farm stand, where in addition to beans, you can find okra, tomatoes, corn, peppers, onions and huge garlic heads perfect for roasting.

Others were piling into a tractor to be driven out into the bean fields. They would return with mesh sacks bursting with beans, for which they’d be charged 78 cents per pound. (Picking the produce yourself results in a discount of about 30-40 percent.)

The farm’s namesake is owner Ron Kelley. An agricultural production consultant, this farm is his “hobby,” and he was hard at work in the fields the day we visited. But his great niece Iisha Leftridge, who was cashier that day, explained that several of their customers from East India and Fiji are vegetarians and vegan, so beans provide a large source of protein in their dishes. They’ll often add them along with peppers and eggplant to curries.

Iisha told me her favorite way of preparing the beans, which I intend to do this week: Shell and sauté them in olive oil with onion, garlic, thyme, and a jalapeno pepper. Add some turkey sausage, a touch of broth, and serve it over rice.

Iisha says the purple hull beans are sweeter than the crowder, and the cranberry are similar to a pinto bean but with a pink speckled hull.

Visitors to R. Kelley can choose from the farm stand offerings or grab a bucket and wander into the fields, where blossoming okra flowers, vines of beans, tomatoes, corn and more await.

We gave a go of it, but with a 2-year old fussing in the mid-day sun (“Sure, blame the kid.” Ok, so we were hot, too!), we didn’t get far.

After picking a few beans, a pepper and an eggplant, we decided to take advantage of the farm stand after all. We made off with a couple of sweet melons, a bunch of beans, and the other fixings we needed to execute Iisha’s favorite bean dish.


R. Kelley Farms is at 1120 Scribner Road in South Sacramento. Open July –October, Wednesday through Sunday, 8 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Services: u-pick, we- pick, farm stand, pea shelling and delivery.
Crops: Black-eye, purple hull and crowder peas. Also green beans, speckled butter beans, garbanzo beans and cranberry beans. Other items include tomatoes, okra, sweet corn, peppers, squash, cucumbers and sweet melons.

Watch a video and learn  more at

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