The old Silva farm & West Sac’s rich ag history
NEWS-LEDGER – APRIL 6, 2011 –
By Daryl Fisher
Ed Silva is 80 years old now and is a lifelong resident of West Sacramento. He is soft-spoken and easy to like and if you can drag him away from his still very busy life for a few minutes, he has some wonderful stories to tell about West Sacramento’s agricultural past. He was raised on a family dairy farm only a stone’s throw away from where he now lives on Deerwood Street, land that was developed and paved over many years ago to make way for the Port of Sacramento and the many homes all around Park Boulevard. And although most of the current residents of West Sacramento know very little about their city’s agricultural past, Ed remembers it well.
“My dad, Manuel Silva, came here way back in 1914, from a little village on San Miguel Island, which is in the Portuguese Archipelago of the Azores,” recalled Ed, “and like most immigrants back in those days, he was trying to escape poverty and make a better life for himself. Once here, he moved around quite a bit and worked on ranches in Auburn, Natomas and Dixon before finally ending up in West Sacramento around 1932.”
When Ed was only a month old, the growing Silva family rented a dairy from what was then known as Caledonia Farms, located near what is now the Nor-Cal Beverage Company and Parkstone Center, the large medical building which anchors the southern end of Park Boulevard.
“Back then,” explained Ed, “there was no Jefferson Boulevard where it is today. In fact, the Jefferson Boulevard of my youth was where Park Boulevard is nowadays. Anyway, around 1937 my dad bought about 50 nearby acres of his own, which included a dairy of about 90 cows, all of whom had to be milked twice a day by hand until milking machines became available. Our milk was some of the best around and was delivered fresh to Crystal Creamery every day in big ten gallon cans.”
Ed went on to explain that when he was young, much of West Sacramento was nothing more than grass for cows to graze upon.
“From what is now Stone Boulevard to 19th Street to Virginia Street was all cow pasture,” recalled Ed, “as was most of the land from across Park Boulevard all the way west to West Acres School. And many was the time that we would get a call from the school wanting us to get right over there because some of our cows had busted down a fence and ended up in the school yard. And mending fences was just one of my many chores. I learned how to drive a tractor at an early age and like many of the teenagers back then, I was pretty good at bailing hay. And believe me, there was always plenty of work to do on the farm, for both the boys and the girls, and there were lots of times when my dad would meet me at the school bus to get me started as soon as possible on a good afternoon of work.”
Over the years, two wives would give Manuel Silva six children, four sons and two daughters, of which Ed was the youngest, and as they got older, all the boys were taken into the family business as full partners. They also all served their country during times of war and also inherited their father’s strong work ethic.
“In addition to the dairy,” said Ed, “we also farmed several acres of alfalfa, barley, wheat, sugar beets and tomatoes. Then around 1944 the Port of Sacramento used eminent domain to buy most of our property and construction of the port started in all phases around 1949. We moved our dairy cows out to Elverta where we bought a 160-acre ranch with the help of Crystal Creamery, but we still farmed quite a few acres in West Sacramento all the way up until the late 1970’s. Dad passed away in 1984 and what land we had left in West Sacramento was turned into a little subdivision known as the Silva Estate Subdivision, which still remains in the family to this day.”
“Looking back on it,” said Ed nostalgically, “it was a really good life and a fun way to grow up. I was out-of-doors all the time and hard work never hurt anyone. And I’ve tried to pass that same work ethic down to Carla, Julia and Eddie, my three children, just as my father passed it down to me. And although West Sacramento is not at all like it was when I was a young man, it’s still a wonderful place to call home.”
Copyright News-Ledger 2011