DIXON — Dixon is Solano County’s historic Dairy City and agriculture has long been central to its identity.
Sure, the dairy cows that gave it that old-school nickname are for the most part gone, though the Heritage Dairy is located a few miles from town. But Dixon is located amid the Dixon Ridge farming area that has some of Solano County’s most fertile soils. Farmers grow everything from tomatoes to alfalfa.
The May Fair, held annually on fairgrounds within the city, is the county’s longest-running fair, far predating the Solano County Fair held in Vallejo. It began in the late 1800s and is the longest continually running agriculture fair in California.
Solano County recently created zoning to allow for a 548-acre agricultural service area next to Dixon. This area is to be home to processing plants and other businesses that help the farming economy.
County Supervisor John Vasquez said the move will allow Solano County to keep more of the value created by agriculture in the local economy. That could be as simple as having a plant to package local farm products.
“Look at all the seed we grow in Yolo and Solano,” he said. “It may be going somewhere else to be put in a bag.”
Dixon at times has expanded on its agricultural identity. Certainly it has become more suburban in recent decades, with subdivisions swelling its population. In recent years, it has flirted with the idea of trying to land a movie studio that would be built on the south side of town and produce family films.
But agriculture remains central to the city’s identity. Just look at the city seal, which portrays an orchard and rows of crops in the foreground and buildings in the distance.
The city’s name comes about in a sense from a case of mistaken identity.
Elija Silvey in about 1851 founded the town of Silveyville, which was located a few miles from present-day Dixon. He set up a hotel and saloon for mule teams traveling between San Francisco and the gold fields in the Sierra Nevada and put up a red lantern to make certain people could find it.
By 1865, Silveyville had about 150 residents and boasted a store, blacksmith shop and a post office, with Silvey serving as postmaster. But the Central Pacific railroad came through in 1868 several miles away and Silveyville died. A new town sprung up along the railroad tracks, with people moving many of the Silveyville buildings there on rollers.
Thomas Dickson donated 10 acres of land for a train station called Dickson station, according to Frank Keegan’s 1989 book “Solano: The Crossroads County.” But somebody shipping the first consignment of goods there misspelled the name as “Dixon.” The mistake stuck.
Dixon has about 18,000 residents, of which 40 percent are Hispanic of any race. Of the non-Hispanic population, 49 percent are white, 2.7 percent black, 3.5 percent Asian, 3.2 percent two or more races and the remainder Pacific Islander and other categories.
The city is a true Central Valley town amid a county that is considered part of the Bay Area, with more in common geographically with Sacramento than San Francisco. This land is flat and hot.
Dixon’s location far from the region’s bays gives it the highest temperatures among Solano County cities, with a summer’s day frequently reaching the high 90s. Plentiful water from Lake Berryessa reservoir combined with the soils and weather makes the Dixon area a Solano County agricultural paradise.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.
City Hall: 600 E. A St., 678-7000
City Manager: Jim Lindley, 678-7000, ext. 101, email@example.com.
City Mayor: Jack Batchelor. Elected in 2008, term expires in 2016. Reach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Councilman: Dane Besneatte. Elected in 2010, term expires in 2014. Reach at email@example.com.
City Councilman: Thom Bogue. Elected in 2010, term expires in 2014. Reach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Councilman: Steve Bird. Elected in 2012, term expires in 2016. Reach at email@example.com.
City Councilman: Jerry Castanon. Elected 2012, term expires in 2016. Reach at firstname.lastname@example.org.