2017 Guide to Summer Farm Experiences

Brie Mazurek, CUESA Staff
July 13, 2017

Need a delicious excuse to get out of the city? Pick perfectly ripe strawberries, enjoy a freshly harvested farm dinner, or get lost in a corn maze, while soaking up the sunshine and meeting the people behind your food on a weekend farm daytrip.

With California’s heartland in the Bay Area’s backyard, we’re blessed with a bounty of agricultural experiences all summer long, from u-picks to farm campouts and harvest festivals. Agritourism provides a win-win for urban and rural communities, offering educational and recreational fun for farm-curious city dwellers, while bringing valuable income to family farmers.

We’ve collected some upcoming farm events to fill your weekends with dirt-under-the-fingernails delight this summer and fall. Many require advance reservations, so be sure to click the links for details.

Capay Organic, Capay

Capay Organic (aka Farm Fresh to You) in Yolo County welcomes thousands of visitors each year through its tours, dinners, and festivals. Events like their annual Capay Tomato Festival offer something for everyone, with tasting, harvesting, farm animal petting, tractor tram rides, live music, crafts for kids, and optional overnight camping in the fruit orchard.

10th Annual Capay Tomato Festival: July 22 (ticketed)

Free Farm Tour: August 19

Capay Crush Wine Festival: September 16

CUESA Food & Farm Tours

Each year, CUESA offers a handful of full-day excursions to explore the farms and facilities of our market sellers. It doesn’t get sweeter than our next one on July 23, which includes visiting the Stanford University campus to see honeybee hives up close, followed by organic berry picking at Swanton Berry Farm in Pescadero. Plus, you get a delicious farm-fresh lunch. Stay tuned to CUESA’s e-letter to hear about future tours.

The Berries & the Bees Farm Frolic and U-Pick: July 23 (ticketed)

Tierra Vegetables Farm, Santa Rosa

Known at the Ferry Plaza for their colorful array of peppers and heirloom corn, Tierra Vegetables in Santa Rosa is the perfect place for a mid-summer taco party. The kitchen crew will be mixing up fresh salsas to dress your tacos (lamb and vegan) served on handmade heirloom corn tortillas, with plenty of strawberry lemonade to wash them down. The farm also hosts occasional outdoor film screenings and salsa making parties.

Taco Party at Tierra Vegetable Farm: July 23 (ticketed)

Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Nicasio

One for the kids: A farm with an educational mission, Devil’s Gulch Ranch partners with the YMCA to offer summer camps for different age groups. Young campers connect with nature through games, traditional skills and crafts, animal care, gardening, and other outdoor activities.

Devil’s Gulch Educational Services/YMCA Summer Camps: July 24-28, July 31-August 4, August 7-11 (registration required)

Eatwell Farm, Dixon

Eatwell Farm recently lost their founding farmer Nigel Walker, but the farm’s beloved summer traditions will continue as planned, because that is what he would have wanted. After all, creating community around good food is what Eatwell is all about. Later this month, they start their series of family-friendly Tomato Sauce Canning Parties: harvest ripe and juicy organic tomatoes from the farm, and learn how to create delicious tomato sauce to savor the rest of the year. Don’t worry if you’ve never canned before—just roll your sleeves up, and someone will show you how. Cap the day off with a community potluck and sleepover on the farm.

Tomato Sauce Canning Party and Sleepover: July 29-30, August 5-6, August 19-20 (ticketed)

Annual Pumpkin Party and Harvest MarketOctober 15 (ticketed)

Lonely Mountain Farm, Corralitos

First-generation farmers Kenny and Molly Baker host dinners several times a year at their homestead Lonely Mountain Farm, just north of Watsonville. Their next one is a five-course summer feast prepared by chef Franklin Liao of San Francisco’s The Battery, using organic produce freshly harvested from the fields (with wine from Alfaro Family Vineyards). While you’re there, keep your eyes peeled for frolicking Nigerian dwarf goats!

Mid-Summer Farm Dinner with Chef Franklin Liao: July 30 (ticketed)

44th Annual Gravenstein Apple Fair, Sebastopol

Kicking off the apple harvest, the Gravenstein Apple Fair celebrates Sonoma County’s rich history in apple farming by paying tribute to one of the season’s earliest—and the region’s most iconic—varieties. Expect cooking demos, an apple pie contest, apple cider, live music, pony rides, and more.

Gravenstein Apple Fair: August 12 and 13

Stemple Creek Ranch, Tomales

Fourth-generation cattle ranch Stemple Creek Ranch opens its doors several times a year to host family-friendly tours and BBQs. Check out the beautiful scenery in West Marin while learning about pasture-based ranching and enjoying burgers made from the ranch’s grass-fed beef.

Annual Open House & BBQ: August 19 (ticketed)

National Heirloom Exposition, Santa Rosa

Filled with workshops, cooking demos, and exhibits, this three-day expo is a mecca for home gardeners, organic farmers, and eaters of all ages. Where else can you marvel at thousands of varieties of fruits and vegetables, hear from internationally known food activists, and take a selfie in front a 12-foot tower of heirloom winter squash?

National Heirloom Exposition: September 5-7

The Farmers Guild Agrarian Games, Petaluma

Who’s ready to test their prowess in wheelbarrow racing, squash bowling, and watermelon seed spitting? Hosted by Farmers Guild, the Agrarian Games is an epic day of competitions and merriment celebrating local food, sustainable agriculture, and the next generation of farmers. You need not be a farmer to play!

Agrarian Games: September 16

Swank Farms Corn Maze, Hollister

Just in time for Halloween, Swank Farms’ popular “Haunted Terror in the Corn” experience gets a makeover as it moves to a new site in Hollister. Check out the Maniac Maze (an immersive corn field experience, complete with a storyline and hidden surprises) along with other fun for the whole family, including a cow train, a giant jumping pillow, corn cannons, and an ugly pumpkin sling shot.

Swank Farms Corn Maze: Weekends September 29 through October 31

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Point Reyes

A short drive north of San Francisco, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company hosts regular farm tours, cheese tastings, dinners, cooking classes, and other events at The Fork, their culinary and education center. Events sell out quickly, so sign up for their newsletter to be in the know.

Grass-Fed Meat 101 Class with Stemple Creek Ranch: September 29 (ticketed)

Friday Farm Tours: Every week, May through October (ticketed)

Hoes Down Harvest Festival, Guinda

Put your hoes down and party with Full Belly Farm at this annual two-day celebration of the harvest season. Camp in the walnut orchards and enjoy farm-fresh food, farm tours, workshops, hay rides, dancing, and more

Hoes Down Harvest Festival: October 7-8

Casa Rosa Farms, Capay Valley

During the fall olive harvest, Casa Rosa Farm invites families to pick their own fresh olives and camp out on the farm. Admission includes olive oil, a tour of the mill, and a communal meal featuring meats and produce from the farm.

Olive Harvesting Weekend: November 11-12 (tentative; stay tuned to Casa Rosa website for weather-related updates and reservations)

Ongoing Farm Tours

Toluma Farms & Tomales Farmstead Creamery, Tomales

Even if you missed them at CUESA’s Goat Festival, you can see the adorable goats of Toluma Farms up close on their home turf. The farm’s monthly tours include a visit to the milking parlor and the goat barn, a hike up to the pastures to learn about organic pasture management, and peek into the creamery—with cheese tasting, of course.

Toluma Farms Tours: First Sunday of each month (reservations required)

The Apple Farm, Philo

Just want a quiet getaway among the apple orchards? The Bates family offers guest cottage stays and immersive cooking weekends in a beautiful, retreat-like setting at The Apple Farm.

“Stay & Cook” and “Just Stay” Weekends: February through November (reservations required)

Swanton Berry Farm, Davenport and Pescadero

Can’t make it to our Swanton Berry Farm tour on July 23? No worries, Food Justice Certified organic trailblazer Swanton Berry Farm offers a strawberry u-pick at their two locations off Highway 1 throughout the summer. Be sure to stop by their coastal farm stand in Davenport for hot soup, fresh berry pies, strawberry lemonade, and a tasting of their berry jams.

Organic Strawberry U-Pick: Runs through September

Achadinha Cheese Company, Petaluma

Tour the dairy and meet (and perhaps even pet!) goats up close on an Achadinha Cheese Company ranch tour. The Pacheco family also offers hands-on classes where cheese lovers can tour the cheese-making facilities, taste a variety of cheeses, and have DIY fun with curds.

Ranch Tours: Ongoing (for small groups by appointment only)

All photos courtesy of their respective farms.

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