In March, artists visited the Carden Ranch of S H Merwin and Sons, a longtime farming family in the area. The Merwins settled on land that features sloughs, open fields, and access to the 200-foot-wide Sacramento Deep Water Ship Channel. The 30-mile-long Channel, built in 1964, joins the port in W. Sacramento to the Sacramento River and in this part of Clarksburg runs through rolling green fields bordered by a verdant levee. This access was a first for Art & Ag artists who were grateful to be able to creatively capture this beautiful corner of Yolo County.
This is the land where Jeff Merwin’s grandfather, Samuel Herbert “Hop” Merwin, settled in 1924 and where this 3rd generation farmer grew up. In the 1950s the family started growing Dichondra, a pretty perennial ground cover popular at the time in the growing suburbs of Los Angeles. Today, S H Merwin and Sons are the largest seed growers of this popular green ground cover in the world.
Besides the 200-acre Dichondra fields, there is an additional 1,800 acres where they grow wheat, safflower, alfalfa, onion seed and grapes. There is a lot to do but Jeff, along with his son Sam and extended family members, are happy to continue the legacy his grandfather started so many years ago. “I’ve wanted to farm since I was five years old,” says Jeff. “I love working outdoors with the soil and being part of the cycle of everything.”
The S H Merwin and Sons properties had much to offer for painters and photographers. The Carden Ranch was a highlight for the artists. This location, right on the levee, is where Jeff grew up alongside his cousins. Nestled among the trees are the homes where he, and his father, now 88, still live. Herds of curious cattle wander freely in this area and were as interested in the artists as they were in them. Standing out against the sky were many fine examples of rusted antique farm equipment.
There are captivating views of rural Clarksburg from the levee which also looks down on their farming headquarters, and King Ranch, another property where they grow 85 acres of chardonnay grapes along Duck Slough, one of the original natural riparian sloughs in the area. Tall stacks of large irrigation pipes and a Quonset barn that dates back to World War II were among the many unique features to explore there.
Portrait of Merwin Family (From left to right: Brittany Merwin, Sam Merwin, Lori Merwin, Jeff Merwin, Greg Merwin)
Photograph by Charles Vincent McDonald