From Field to Fork: Exploring California through Farm Tours


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From Field to Fork: Exploring California through Farm Tours

April 16, 2024
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From Field to Fork: Exploring California through Farm Tours

From Field to Fork: Exploring California through Farm Tours

California, a state celebrated for agricultural diversity and innovation, offers a unique opportunity for a first hand-experience with farm tours. From the rolling hills of Northern California to the sun-soaked fields of SoCal, a variety of farms open their doors to the public. You can enjoy tours, U-pick fruits and veggies, and farm stands filled with fresh produce. This guide will take you through some of the best farm experiences across the state, region by region.

salinas scenery

Northern California: Farm Tours with a Taste of Wine Country and Beyond

Northern California, with its diverse climates and landscapes, is home to a rich array of farms. From the coastal areas to the inland valleys and hills, these farms provide insights into sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and the farm-to-fork movement. Here are some notable farms where visitors can enjoy tours and learn more about local agriculture:

Shakefork Community Farm: Nestled in the heart of Humboldt County, California, Shakefork embodies the spirit of regenerative farming. This farm is dedicated to producing high-quality produce, meat, and eggs with integrity. In part, they do this by harnessing the power of oxen and prioritizing pasture-raised practices. With a deep belief in the connection between land, health, and community, Shakefork Community Farm offers an authentic farm-to-table experience.

Hawes Farms: Offering more than just a pumpkin patch. Hawes Farms in Anderson provides educational tours about farming and agriculture. Be sure to catch the fun family activities in the fall!

Long Meadow Ranch: This multifaceted farm in St. Helena offers a variety of farm-to-table experiences. Enjoy dining, wine tastings, and tours that highlight their integrated farming system. This integration is a beautifully complex marriage of  vineyards, olive groves, fruits, vegetables, and livestock.

Full Belly Farm: Located in the beautiful Capay Valley, Full Belly Farm is a certified organic farm. They invite visitors to learn about sustainable farming. They have tours, workshops, and their annual Hoe Down Harvest Festival.

Capay Organic: part of Farm Fresh To You, this second-generation family farm is located in the Capay Valley. They offer farm tours as part of their event schedule. They are well-known for their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, which delivers organic produce to households and businesses. The farm occasionally hosts events like farm tours, dinners, and festivals. These experiences allow visitors to experience the farm and learn about their organic farming practices.

Seka Hills: Owned by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in California’s picturesque Capay Valley, they invite visitors to its Olive Mill & Tasting Room. Here, guests can experience the rich agricultural heritage and scenic beauty of the valley. You’ll also be able to savor tastings of 100% California extra virgin olive oil. In addition, they have a range of artisan products crafted with traditional Native American methods blended with modern innovation. It’s a unique opportunity to delve into the culture and tastes of the region

Apple Hill: Beyond vineyards, Northern California’s cooler climates are perfect for apple orchards. Apple Hill in Placerville is a community of over 50 farms, offering U-pick apples, pumpkins, berries, and more. Don’t miss High Hill Ranch, Apple Ridge Farms, and Rainbow Orchards for apple picking, seasonal goodies, and fresh cider.

Philo Apple Farm: Located in Philo, near the Anderson Valley wine region, this family-run farm offers a glimpse into sustainable apple farming. They also have accommodations for those who wish to extend their stay and immerse themselves in the tranquil farm life.

Preston Farm and Winery: Situated in Healdsburg, this farm practices organic farming and biodynamics. These practices extend to production of a variety of crops and wines. Visitors can tour the farm, taste wine, and learn about their holistic approach to agriculture.

Entrance to Séka Hills Olive Mill and Tasting Room

Farm Tours in the Sacramento Area: Farm-to-Fork Capital

The Sacramento region, often referred to as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital, is surrounded by some of California’s richest agricultural lands. This area offers numerous opportunities to tour farms, participate in agricultural events, and learn about sustainable farming practices. Here are some farms in the Sacramento region where visitors can enjoy tours and gain insights into local agriculture:

Soil Born Farms: Located in Rancho Cordova, Soil Born Farms is an urban agricultural project. They focus on promoting urban agriculture, sustainable food systems, and healthy food education. They offer a variety of educational programs, and workshops. Their farm tours allow visitors to learn about organic farming practices and the importance of local food systems.

Impossible Acres Farm: This family-owned farm located in Davis offers a hands-on farm experiences for the whole family. Enjoy seasonal U-pick fruits and vegetables, including berries, peaches, pumpkins, and more. While primarily known for its U-pick operations, the farm provides an informal setting to learn about the cultivation of various crops.

Bay Area Farm Tours: Urban Farms and Artisanal Delights

By touring farms in the Bay Area you’ll enjoy a diverse range of agricultural experiences. From lush vineyards and organic vegetable farms to historic orchards and educational programs, there is something for everyone. These regions are celebrated for their commitment to sustainable farming practices and local food systems. Here’s a guide to some farms in the Bay Area. Visitors can enjoy tours and a closer look at local agriculture:

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.: For cheese enthusiasts, a visit to the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. offers a glimpse into the art of cheese making. Taste their award-winning blue cheese against the backdrop of the stunning Pacific coast.

Slide Ranch in Muir Beach: Located along the Marin County coast, Slide Ranch offers educational programs and farm tours. Tours focus on environmental education. Visitors can learn about farming, cheese making, and the importance of coastal ecosystems.

Hidden Villa: An educational nonprofit located in Los Altos, Hidden Villa spans over 1600 acres, offering programs in a scenic setting. Visitors can explore the organic farm, educational garden, and wooded trails, making it an engaging visit for all ages​.

Gizdich ranch u-pick

Central Coast Farm Tours: Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara

The Central Coast of California, encompasses the regions of  Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo (SLO), and Santa Barbara. The area is known for stunning landscapes, wine country, and diverse agricultural production. Farm tours in this region offer visitors a chance to explore the area’s rich agricultural heritage, sustainable farming practices, and the farm-to-table movement. Here are some farms and agricultural experiences in these areas that welcome visitors for tours:

Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport: Known for its organic strawberries, Swanton Berry Farm offers U-pick opportunities and a chance to learn about its cooperative farming model. They occasionally offer tours that highlight their sustainable practices and the history of agriculture in the area.

UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden: The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz offers tours of its farm and garden, providing insights into organic farming research and education. They have self-guided tour options and scheduled guided tours focusing on organic agriculture and sustainable food systems.

Live Earth Farm in Watsonville: Offering a connection to the seasonal rhythms of farming, Live Earth Farm provides educational tours and farm-based educational programs. They focus on sustainable agriculture practices and offer a deep dive into organic farming.

Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville: a family-owned gem since 1937, Gizdich is celebrated for its U-Pick operation. They invite visitors to harvest their own apples and berries amidst the scenic beauty of apple country. The ranch also boasts a Pie Shop & Deli, famous for its wide variety of pies and fresh deli offerings. It is a cherished spot for both locals and visitors seeking a taste of farm-fresh goodness. 

Martinelli’s Apple Cider: The Martinelli’s Company Store & Tasting Room in Watsonville, CA, opened in 2015, welcomes visitors with complimentary tastings of their renowned products daily. This destination offers an immersive experience where guests can delve into the brand’s storied history, sample a range of Martinelli’s offerings, and purchase branded merchandise and products. It’s a perfect spot for those looking to explore the legacy that has been a staple since 1868.

Pezzini Farms: Pezzini Farms is located in Castroville, California, the “Artichoke Capital of the World.” It is renowned for its heirloom artichokes, brought to the United States nearly a century ago. This family-owned farm is celebrated for its annual Castroville Artichoke Festival. They offer visitors a unique chance to explore vast artichoke fields and savor fresh, heirloom artichokes. Visitors can indulge in artichoke-themed treats at the farm stand, including deep-fried artichoke hearts from “The Choke Coach”. Visitors can even take home artichoke-laced pantry items.

The Farm in Salinas: Known as “The Farm,” this destination offers educational tours focusing on organic farming practices. It also shares the importance of sustainable agriculture and the history of farming in the Salinas Valley. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful flower gardens, purchase fresh produce, and learn about farm life.

Earthbound Farm Organic Farm Stand, Carmel Valley: One of the pioneers of organic farming, Earthbound Farm features a charming farm stand and café. They also offer self-guided tours through their aromatic herb gardens.

Ag Venture Tours: While not a farm itself, Ag Venture Tours offers guided tours of the agricultural areas in Monterey County. Tours include visits to vineyards, farms, and agricultural processing facilities. It’s a great way to get an insider’s look at the region’s diverse agricultural industry.

Casa de Fruita: Casa de Fruta, located on Highway 152, has evolved from a humble cherry stand into a celebrated California farmstand. Attracting locals and tourists with its diverse selection of fresh produce, including apples, strawberries, avocados, and more. The site now includes a restaurant, café, and various attractions like a double-decker carousel and “Casa de Choo Choo” train. Its commitment to sustainability and supporting local farmers adds to its charm, making it a must-visit destination.

Groves on 41: Located near Paso Robles wine country, Groves on 41 is an olive farm that cultivates award-winning olive oil from 4,000 Spanish Arbequina and Greek Koroneiki trees. Their venture into olive farming started as a retirement plan. It soon turned into a passionate enterprise, blending ancient practices with California’s innovative twist on olive oil production. Their property, which also hosts a guest house and event barn, epitomizes sustainable farming and agritourism. They offer tours, tastings, and a serene retreat in the heart of California’s Central Coast

FARMstead ED: This non-profit organization orchestrates an array of activities. Activities include farm tours, hands-on workshops, and educational events that cover everything from meat processing to mixology. The initiative celebrates the county’s rich agricultural landscape by connecting agri-enthusiasts with local farmers and makers. This allows them to highlight the journey from farm to table, or in some cases, from farm to creation, showcasing the best of what local agriculture has to offer. Check out their interactive Farm Trail Map.

Avila Valley Barn: Known for fresh, locally-grown produce, delicious bakery treats, and a warm, family-friendly atmosphere, the barn invites visitors to feed and pet farm animals, enjoy lunch from the Smoke House and Chicken Shack, or indulge in an ice cream treat on their way to Avila Beach. A destination was built with family in mind. Avila Valley Barn is a must-visit for those seeking the essence of farm life and the taste of local flavor. 

Jack Creek Farms: A fifth-generation family farm located in Templeton, Jack Creek Farms offers visitors a chance to see a working farm up close. With a variety of U-pick fruits, a farm stand, and farm animals, it’s a fun and educational experience for the whole family. Open seasonally.

Santa Barbara Blueberries and Restoration Oaks Ranch: Santa Barbara Blueberries at Restoration Oaks Ranch, is nestled in the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley. Approximately 35 miles north of Santa Barbara, this is more than just a blueberry farm. Spanning 1,000 acres, this vibrant location doubles as a cattle ranch and retreat center. They offer visitors a rich blend of agricultural and natural beauty. With around 32,000 pesticide-free blueberry plants, alongside raspberries, blackberries, and more, the farm is a haven for U-Pick enthusiasts seeking premium quality, naturally-grown fruit.

Good Land Organics Coffee: Good Land Organics, is located just north of Santa Barbara in Goleta, California. They are pioneers in the cultivation of coffee along the state’s central and southern coasts. What started over 20 years ago as a small experimental crop has grown into an extensive coffee growing, processing, and retail operation. They integrate coffee plants with avocado trees and other subtropical fruits. This venture utilizes precision agriculture and sustainable practices to produce a uniquely Californian coffee experience that challenges the traditional geography of coffee cultivation. They host educational tours throughout the year.

Folded Hills Farmstead: Offering more than just vineyard tours, Folded Hills Farmstead in Gaviota invites visitors to tour the farm, meet the animals, and learn about organic farming practices. The farmstead is committed to sustainability and provides a hands-on experience with nature.

Fairview Gardens: Located in Goleta, Fairview Gardens is one of the oldest organic farms in California. They offer educational tours that highlight sustainable agriculture practices and the importance of local food systems. The farm also hosts workshops and community events.

Trinity Gardens: Trinity Gardens, a vibrant community garden in Santa Barbara, California, goes beyond providing garden plots to local residents. This nurturing space contributes significantly to food security and community well-being. They do so by donating thousands of pounds of organic produce annually to local organizations. With a focus on education, Trinity Gardens offers classes on sustainable farming practices and cooking, fostering a deeper connection between the community and their food sources.

Aerial view of Hunter Farms Pumpkin Patch in Atwater, CA

Central Valley: Farm Tours in California’s Agriculture Heartland

Touring farms in the Central Valley of California offers a unique insight into the heart of America’s agricultural hub. This region stretches over 450 miles down the middle of the state. It’s responsible for a significant portion of the nation’s fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. While many farms are private and not open to the general public for tours, there are still plenty of opportunities to visit and learn about farming practices, sustainability, and the farm-to-table process. Here are some farms and agricultural experiences in the Central Valley that welcome visitors:

Phillips Farms: Situated near Lodi, Phillips Farms offers farm tours that highlight the region’s rich agricultural history and its importance to the local economy. The farm is also part of the Michael David Winery, offering visitors a chance to enjoy farm-to-table dining and wine tasting.

Hunter Farms: Hunter Family Farms offers a range of agricultural experiences. Enjoy fresh, locally-grown produce to seasonal activities for families, such as pumpkin patches, farm tours, and U-pick fruit events.

Simonian Farms: Near Fresno, Simonian Farms offers a glimpse into a working farm that grows over 180 varieties of fruits and vegetables. The farm has a rich history dating back to 1901 and today includes a produce market and a small museum featuring antique farm equipment.

Sweet Thistle Farms: Sweet Thistle Farms, nestled at the foothills in Clovis, California, is a boutique flower and pumpkin farm with a rich story rooted in five generations of farming. They offer a variety of experiences, including U-Pick flowers and vegetables, a farm stand with seasonal offerings, and a popular pumpkin patch every fall.

Murray Family Farms: With locations near Bakersfield, Murray Family Farms allows visitors to experience a working farm with a variety of U-pick fruits, a petting zoo, and educational tours about sustainable farming practices and the importance of agriculture.

Bravo Farms: Although more of an artisanal cheese producer and tourist stop in Traver, Bravo Farms offers visitors a chance to see dairy processing and enjoy a range of family-friendly activities, including a petting zoo and a tree house.

Fantozzi Farms: Located in Patterson, Fantozzi Farms is known for its corn maze and pumpkin patch in the fall. They also offer educational tours about farming practices in the Central Valley, focusing on the sustainability and technology used in modern agriculture.

Bloomingcamp Ranch: An apple, walnut, and almond ranch in Oakdale with a bake shop that’s open year-round. Visit and enjoy a picnic on the grounds or check out their calendar for Farm-to-Table Dinners and holiday events!

Temecula Olive Oil Company

Southern California: Diverse Cultures and Crops

Underwood Family Farms, Moorpark: Just outside Los Angeles, this farm is a favorite for family outings. You’ll find U-pick vegetables and fruits, animal centers, and seasonal festivals celebrating the harvest.

Apricot Lane Farms is a biodynamic and organic farm located in Moorpark, California, about 50 miles north of Los Angeles. It has gained widespread recognition not only for its sustainable farming practices. You can also watch their documentary “The Biggest Little Farm,” which chronicles the journey of John and Molly Chester from novice farmers to the stewards of a thriving, diversified farm ecosystem. Join them for an educational farm tour, or stop in and purchase produce at their farmstand.

Bennett’s Honey Farm: Bennett’s Honey Farm, nestled north of Los Angeles in the scenic Heritage Valley of Ventura County, stands as a testament to the importance of bees in California agriculture. This family-owned, solar-powered operation prides itself on being a near-zero carbon footprint facility. You’ll find a range of local honey, skincare products from their own beeswax, candles, and other gift items. Through its commitment to supporting local beekeepers and producing premium raw honey, Bennett’s Honey Farm embodies the crucial role of bees in pollination and the agricultural ecosystem​. You can visit their gift shop, or join them for special events and tours.

Apple Picking in Oak Glen: Oak Glen is renowned for its idyllic farmlands, featuring vast orchards, rows of crops, and berry bushes that paint a serene landscape. This charming region is the perfect place for visitors to explore its numerous farms, each offering a unique glimpse into the area’s agricultural bounty. 

Temecula Olive Oil Company: Visiting Temecula Olive Oil Company offers a unique chance to explore Olive View Ranch. There, you can immerse yourself in the process of producing fresh-squeezed, 100% California Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Guests are invited to tour the groves, experience olive oil tastings, and learn about the company’s dedication to modern science and centuries-old traditions in olive cultivation

Tanaka Farms: Specializing in strawberries, watermelons, and pumpkins, Tanaka Farms in Irvine, California offers guided wagon tours through its fields, with U-pick opportunities and a focus on educational farming experiences.

Flower Fields: This family-owned business, started by an Italian immigrant, has blossomed into a beacon of beauty and diversity. They even supplyg flowers nationwide. With its vibrant Carlsbad flower fields, they offer an immersive agritourism experience. Visitors can witness the colorful spectacle of ranunculus blooms that extend through Mother’s Day, or visit them to pick blueberries during blueberry season.


Farms Stands You Need to Visit

Whenever we plan a California road trip, we always include as many farmstands as possible along our route! There’s nothing quite like exploring a unique farmstand, enjoying locally-grown produce, and tasting the Golden State’s specialties, all while hunting for the perfect souvenir.

California’s Best U-Pick Farms

Here’s your guide to some of the top U-pick spots across California. We spotlight special events, family-friendly locations, and unique experiences you can enjoy along the way.

Where to Taste Wine in California

Each region, with its unique varietals and standout wineries, adds to the diverse and vibrant tapestry of California wines. Whether you’re an experienced aficionado or a curious beginner, we’ve put together a guide that will get you on your way.

What to know before you go!

When planning to visit these farms, it’s essential to check their websites. You can also contact them directly for the most current information on tour availability, scheduling, and any specific visitor guidelines.

Exploring California farms offers an insightful and delightful way to understand the state’s agricultural abundance. Whether you’re picking apples in the crisp air of Apple Hill, tasting artisanal cheese along the coast, or wandering through fields of strawberries in Southern California, these farm tours and U-pick operations provide a tangible connection to the land and the people who nourish it. Beyond the pleasure of tasting fresh, directly sourced produce, visitors gain an appreciation for California’s commitment to sustainability and the importance of supporting local farms. So, pack your bags (and don’t forget your reusable ones for the produce!), and head out to discover the Golden State’s agricultural treasures.

Article written by Alison Needham for California Grown. Images by James Collier and Hillary Rance.

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