By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Organic fun
at Riverdance Farms

A 2018 survey by the Alliance of Science revealed that more than 48 percent of Americans have no idea where their food comes from. Fortunately, those who live near or are visiting Livingston can pick their food right off the stems thanks to Riverdance Farms.

Riverdance Farms is approximately 87 acres large and sits at 12230 Livingston Cressey Rd. right off of the Merced River near McConnell State Park. Owners Cindy Lashbrook and Bill Thompson first moved onto the property in 1996. In two years, the couple transitioned the property entirely into organic land. And beginning in 2004, they began welcoming visitors from far and wide to take advantage of the scenery and their crops for a bi-annual festival and seasonal “U-Pick” events. Individuals are also invited to come over and camp or fish in the bass-rich Merced River, on occasion.

Their annual Spring Festival is slated for Memorial Day Weekend this year, from May 25-27. There folks will be treated to live music, activities for the kiddos, a maker’s market and have the opportunity to pick produce. And there are lots of them.

The couple’s mission is simple — to share good, healthy food and experiences with the public while promoting sustainability. 

“I like sharing. When people visit, they support us in keeping it this way…. It’s beautiful land,” Lashbrook said.

The couple and their small but mighty staff of three to five plant things like cherries, blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, tomatoes, pomegranates, plums, persimmons, walnuts, almonds, pecans, honey, lavender and more. They are all grown and sold during their respective seasons, and of course, it’s all organic.

Riverdance Farms fertilizes with compost and  legume covers crops, seaweed, fish extracts and mined natural minerals. They also work to recycle their prunings and food waste into compost or mulch for the farm. Pest management strategies include the release of beneficial insects, planting hedgerows and cover crops that provide food and shelter to bees, other pollinizers and insectivorous birds.Several nesting boxes for Barn Owls, bats, American Kestrels and wood ducks have also been built, as each animal helps fend off invasive species.’

The U-Pick season usually starts around the same time as the Spring Festival in May. The same goes for the camping and fishing seasons. For those not wanting to work out a sweat and walk the massive property and choose their produce, there is also a general market for people to shop from. 

And as Lashbrook said, not only are people getting some of the healthiest food grown in the Central Valley and experiencing wildlife in unique ways, but they are supporting the family and their ability to host their festivals and care for the land. 

At the festivals, the family hosts hayrides, arts and crafts sessions, lessons on how to identify animal footprints and holds corn grinding classes for the littles, as well as hikes and other activities. Live music is played by local musicians, while food trucks drive onto the property, both selling their snacks and teaching guests how they grew or obtained their food.

According to the couple, at their peak prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, they averaged 800 to 1,200 visitors. Visitors hail from the Bay Area, Southern California and even from out of state. While numbers remain large, they are on a mission to spread the word even more to further entertain and educate folks about wildlife and organic growing.

Aside from the festival, Riverdance Farms opens their gates to the property to local school children, whether they are groups from local elementary schools, homeschooled children or even young adults attending local colleges looking to learn more and study organic and sustainable practices.

With such a small staff, the family encourages folks interested in visiting the property during the spring and summer to call or text Lashbrook at (209) 761-0081. Prices to camp, fish and attend the Spring and Fall Festivals vary. Those interested are encouraged to visit and follow the farm on social media channels Facebook at @Riverdance Farms and Instagram at @RiverdanceFarms_.