2019 Guide to Summer Farm Adventures
Brie Mazurek, CUESA Staff
July 15, 2019
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 farm 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: August 10
Ranch Tours: July 13 and 27; August 3, 17, 24, and 31
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.
12th Annual Capay Tomato Festival: July 20 (3 pm-11 pm, ticketed)
Capay Crush Wine Festival: September 28 (4 pm-9 pm, ticketed)
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, and more.
Gravenstein Apple Fair: August 17 and 18
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)
Hoes Down Harvest Festival, Guinda
After a year on hiatus, Full Belly Farm’s Hoes Down Festival is back! Put your hoes down and party at this annual celebration of the harvest season, which has supported local and statewide organizations dedicated to sustainable agriculture for 30 years. Enjoy farm-fresh food, farm tours, workshops, hay rides, dancing, tent camping, and more.
Hoes Down Festival: October 5 (all tickets are pre-sale)
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)
Live Earth Farm, Watsonville
Located in the Pajaro Valley of Santa Cruz County, Live Earth Farm is a 150-acre patchwork of working organic farm, riparian corridor, oak, and redwood forest. Run by Farm Discovery, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering youth and families to build and sustain healthy food and farming systems, Live Earth Farm offers a u-pick for strawberries, blackberries, dry farmed tomatoes, and apples. Additional events include Farm Camp, Wee Ones and Family Farm Days, and a farm-to-fork dining experience fundraiser in September.
Farm Camp: June-July (registration required)
Family Farm Days: First Friday of every month April-October (2:30-4:00 pm)
Elemental Farm to Table Feast: September 21 (ticketed)
U-Pick: Saturdays and Sundays (10 am-3 pm) through October
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 10-12 (1-day and 3-day passes available online)
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)
Slide Ranch, Marin Coast
Slide Ranch, a working farm and educational center dedicated to connecting children to nature, is located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, 25 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. Throughout the summer, Slide Ranch operates a 10-week day camp for kids aged 5 to 15 that emphasizes hands-on-learning in nature. Seasonal group programs continue into fall (mid September through November) and start again during the spring (mid February through May).
Summer Camp: Week-long sessions from June 10-August 15 (booking required in advance and scholarships available for low income families)
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.
10th Anniversary Annual Open House & BBQ: August 24 (12-3 pm, ticketed)
Straus Home Ranch, Marshall
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 28 and September 22 (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: Tickets available soon
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)
Urban Adamah, Berkeley
Urban Adamah, an urban farm in Berkeley founded in 2010, has grown into a thriving community space for the Bay Area Jewish community. Urban Adamah offers free and sliding-scale community programs for all ages that facilitate learning new skills and intentional living with the land. Join them for Kabbalat Shabbat, skill-building workshops, farm tour and volunteer parties, Havdalah bonfires, and more. No one is turned away due to lack of funds.
Summer Camp: One-week sessions from July 8-August 23
Event Calendar: Many upcoming events and workshops throughout the year!
All photos courtesy of their respective farms. This article was updated in 2019 with contributions from Olivia Won of KQED.