Farm Fun: Fort Cross Cultivates Learning Through Agriculture


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Farm Fun: Fort Cross Cultivates Learning Through Agriculture

April 9, 2024
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Farm Fun: Fort Cross Cultivates Learning Through Agriculture

Farm Fun: Fort Cross Cultivates Learning Through Agriculture

Fort Cross, a farm nestled in the beautiful mountains of San Diego County, isn’t your typical farm. Sure, delicious produce and fragrant flowers grow there, like raspberries, apples, pumpkins, and lilacs. However, Fort Cross is so much more. It is an agritourism destination that blends education, entertainment, and adventure, all wrapped up in a fun, family-friendly experience.

U-pick Berries, Fragrant Lilacs, and Perfect Pumpkins!

From the fragrant blossoms of the Lilac Festival in spring, the sun-drenched berry picking of summer, and the nostalgic apple and pumpkin harvests of fall to the serene beauty of winter’s preparation for renewal, Fort Cross provides an ever-changing backdrop for adventure and discovery. No matter the season, planning a trip to this destination offers a year-round escape. Dive into the wonders of agritourism and the great outdoors at Fort Cross.

A Fun-Filled Adventure Awaits at the Spring Lilac Festival

As winter’s chill gives way to the warmth of spring, Fort Cross invites you to revel in the aromatic splendor of their Lilac Festival. It’s a vibrant celebration of nature’s renewal and the farm’s signature crop.

This enchanting event marks the blooming season of the majestic lilacs. The farm transforms into a sea of purple and white. Visitors can immerse themselves in the beauty of these fragrant flowers. They can also participate in a variety of lilac-themed activities that promise fun for the entire family.

Image provided by Fort Cross.

Because Mother Nature has her own timelines, there can be no guarantee that the lilacs will be in bloom during the festival, but this event promises a fun-filled experience regardless. Registration is recommended, so be sure to check out their website for more information and updates!

Image provided by Fort Cross.

Summer’s Sweet Harvest: U-Pick Berries at Fort Cross Farm

Step into the sunlit fields of Fort Cross Farm this summer for a joyful journey into the heart of summer berry picking. As the raspberry season begins and strawberries hint at a second flush of fruit, the farm opens its gates for a delightful U-Pick experience. This is a rare opportunity to wander among the vines, selecting the juiciest, ripest berries directly from the plant.

Image provided by Fort Cross.

A Taste of Autumn: Celebrating Apple Season at Fort Cross

As the crisp air of fall sets in, Fort Cross embarks on one of its most cherished seasonal traditions: the Johnny Appleseed Festival!

This festive celebration marks the peak of apple season. Fort Cross invites visitors to partake in the age-old delights of apple picking and cider pressing. There’s also a plethora of apple-themed activities that epitomize the spirit of fall.

Image provided by Fort Cross.

The festival not only honors the legendary figure of Johnny Appleseed, but also showcases the farm’s commitment to preserving and sharing the rich agricultural heritage of Julian.

Image provided by Fort Cross.

From the thrilling apple slingshot to the educational hayrides through the orchards, each activity is designed to deepen the visitor’s connection between nature and our food sources.

Image provided by Fort Cross.

It’s the Pick of the Patch! Find Your Fairytale Pumpkin This Fall

It’s fall at Fort Cross. Crisp autumn air, vibrant foliage, and the promise of the chance to select the perfect pumpkin!

Dive into autumn with Fort Cross’s enchanting Little Pumpkin Patch Adventure. It’s a seasonal celebration that captures the essence and excitement of fall. This family-friendly event offers a delightful foray into the world of pumpkins against the picturesque backdrop of Julian’s natural beauty.

Get lost in the sprawling U-Pick pumpkin patch. Rows upon rows of pumpkins in every shape, size, and color. It’s a haven for families searching for the perfect jack-o’-lantern, ready to be transformed into spooky or heartwarming centerpieces.

Image provided by Fort Cross.

The Origins of Fort Cross: A Legacy of Passion and History

The story of Fort Cross is a narrative of love—love for history, education, and community. “This is a living history farm where we do hands on activities for kids, families, anybody who wants to come up,” Jesse explains. His journey began in a family deeply ingrained with a passion for history and artistry, leading him to start the first living history program on his family’s farm. This passion blossomed into the creation of Fort Cross, a space dedicated to survival skills, Native history, and hands-on education.

Doreen’s path intersected with Jesse’s when her daughter’s Girl Scout troop visited Fort Cross. She was immediately captivated by the farm’s mission and Jesse’s vision. Their partnership, both professional and personal, has been the driving force behind the farm’s evolution and success

Where Education Meets Fun: Activities at Fort Cross

Fort Cross is a treasure trove of activities that bridge the gap between education and entertainment. Jesse Cross, with his background as a schoolteacher and a profound love for history, has designed a range of programs that encompass California history like gold panning, archery, tomahawk throwing, and more.

These activities are not just about having fun. Each is carefully crafted to offer insights into skills of different eras, making history come alive. The farm’s approach to education is hands-on. This allows guests to engage directly with the past through activities that reflect the lifestyle and survival skills of bygone eras.

Here’s a glimpse into what you can experience:

  • Living History Programs: Immerse yourself in California’s history through interactive programs that bring the past to life. Learn about gold rush era activities, California Native American life, and more.
  • Survival Skills Workshops: Sharpen your wilderness survival skills by learning about fire starting, shelter building, and other essential techniques.
  • Educational Field Trips: This is a popular destination for school field trips. They offer curriculum-based programs that are both educational and engaging for students.
  • Family Fun Activities: Plan a fun-filled day for the whole family. Enjoy activities like rope making, old-time dance lessons, and gold panning.
  • Seasonal Events: Throughout the year, you will find special events that celebrate different seasons and holidays. These events offer a unique opportunity to experience this destination in a new light.

Insider Tips to Plan Your Trip Any Time of the Year

Fort Cross is located in the Julian area of San Diego County. Here’s how to plan your visit:

  • Plan Your Activities: Browse the website to learn about their current programs and offerings. Choose the activities that interest you and your group.
  • Book Your Reservations: Some programs at require reservations in advance. Be sure to book your spot online or by phone before your visit.
  • Wear Comfortable Clothing and Shoes: Since many of the activities take place outdoors, be sure to wear comfortable clothing and shoes that you can move around in easily.
  • Bring Sunscreen and a Hat: The California sun can be intense, so be sure to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.
  • Pack a Lunch or Snacks: While does not have a restaurant on-site, they do have picnic tables where you can enjoy your own lunch or snacks.

Where Business meets Community

Beyond the farm is an integral part of the Julian community, a place where agriculture, education, and camaraderie flourish. Jesse speaks highly of the local community, noting the cooperative spirit that pervades it. “It’s just a neat community that way,” he says, highlighting the farm’s connection to local restaurants and community events. This sense of belonging and mutual support is a cornerstone of Fort Cross’s philosophy.

A pig roaming the property at Fort Cross.

A Personal Invitation from Jesse and Doreen

Jesse and Doreen’s mission extends beyond providing entertainment and education. They aim to create a welcoming space where visitors feel like part of the family, a goal rooted in their love for the farm and its guests.“We love seeing people have fun and seeing somebody going from not knowing how to do something to being able to do it,” Jesse reflects. This sentiment captures the essence of Fort Cross— a place where learning is a joy, and every visit enriches the soul.

This article was written by Meg van der Kruik. Photo credit James Collier for California Grown.

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