2018 Guide to Summer Farm Adventures
Brie Mazurek, CUESA Staff
July 6, 2018
Craving a delicious excuse to get out of the city and back to the land? Pick perfectly ripe strawberries, pet baby goats, or shuck freshly harvested oysters by the bay, while meeting the people behind your food on a weekend farm adventure.
With California’s heartland in the Bay Area’s backyard, we’re blessed with a bounty of agricultural experiences just a short drive away, 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.
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.
Cheese Making Class & Ranch Tour: August 12
Ranch Tours: Ongoing (for small groups by appointment only)
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)
Blue House Farm, Pescadero
Take a drive down the coast and pick your fill of ripe, organic strawberries at Blue House Farm. A member of CUESA’s Mission Community Market, Blue House Farm is a certified organic farm nestled on three sides by rolling hills, redwood forests, a natural year-round creek, coastal prairie, and nearby wild ocean beaches. They offer a strawberry u-pick on weekends in the summer and a pumpkin patch in the fall.
Blue House Farm U-Pick: May through October, Saturdays and Sundays (11 am to 6 pm)
Capay Organic, Capay
Capay Organic (aka Farm Fresh to You) 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.
11th Annual Capay Tomato Festival: July 28 (ticketed)
Capay Crush Wine Festival (ticketing TBA): September 22
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 16-20, July 23-27, July 30-August 6, August 6-10 (registration required)
Green Gulch Farm, Muir Beach
For a meditative retreat from the city, visit Green Gulch Farm, a branch of the San Francisco Zen Center. Situated off of Highway 1 and just a short jaunt from Muir Beach, the farm’s grounds are open to visitors throughout the week and make for a tranquil stop during a full day of hiking around Marin’s many trails. On Sunday morning, Green Dragon Temple is open for a public program of Zen meditation instruction, a lecture, and a public lunch (by donation). Green Gulch also offers garden classes and volunteer opportunities on the farm.
Green Gulch Farm Visits: Open to the public, with regular programs (check website for schedule)
Hog Island Oyster Company, Marshall
Hog Island Oyster Company has perfected sustainable aquaculture techniques to produce some of the best local oysters and clams you can find. Learn all about how they do it in the unique ecosystem of Tomales Bay with a tour of the farm. Separately, you can book a picnic table to shuck and grill your own oysters while basking in the sun by the Bay–but dates book up far out in advance, so plan ahead.
Hog Island Farm Tours & Shuck-Your-Own Picnics: Ongoing (reservations required)
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 David Kurtz of San Francisco’s Homage, using organic produce freshly harvested from the fields. While you’re there, keep your eyes peeled for frolicking Nigerian dwarf goats!
Mid-Summer Farm Dinner with Homage: July 22 (ticketed)
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.
Friday Farm Tours: Every week, May through October (ticketed)
Ongoing Farm Tours
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)
Straus Home Ranch
Meet the milking heifers and learn all about Marin’s history in dairy farming, organic agriculture, and environmental conservation while hiking around Straus Home Ranch (the farm behind Straus Family Creamery) in Marshall, with scenic views of Tomales Bay. Tours are led by the Straus family themselves, who are pioneers in the organic dairy movement. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy some locally made cheeses.
Straus Home Ranch Farm Tours: July 15, August 12, September 9 (ticketed)
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 28 through October 31
Swanton Berry Farm, Davenport and Pescadero
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
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)
45th 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. This year, the Fair is welcoming the Agrarian Games, presented by the Farmers Guild and CAFF, which includes fun farmy activities like a hay bale toss, wheelbarrow races, and an ugly produce beauty pageant. You need not be a farmer to play!
Gravenstein Apple Fair: August 11 and 12
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 11-13
All photos courtesy of their respective farms.