May/June 2010 California Country magazine
Story by Steve Adler
Illustrations by Matt Salvo
Follow one of California's many farm trails for food and fun.
Have you ever sunk your teeth into a juicy peach just moments after you plucked it from a tree? Or how about petting a piglet, learning how to spin wool or going on a cattle drive?
Those adventures and many more await consumers who venture forth on the more than 20 farm trails scattered throughout California.
"For the consumer, farm trails offer the opportunity to taste fresh, local food and experience the place where it was grown," said Lynda Browning, executive director of Sonoma County Farm Trails, one of the state's most popular farm trails. "Families can get a behind-the-scenes peek at the world of agriculture. They can dig for potatoes, milk a goat, bottle-feed a calf, see how cheese is made and pick organic fruit from a local orchard. It's exciting for everyone to learn how their food is grown and made."
And the excitement continues to build.
"With the rise of the local food movement, we've started receiving lots of calls from consumers trying to figure out where to buy local produce or where they can experience a local farm," Browning said. "There is nothing more essential than food, and buying from local farms—or local groceries or restaurants that buy from local farms—is a great way to keep your dollars circulating in the local community."
Farmers and ranchers up and down the state have opened their gates to consumers through farm trails and online guides and maps. Here's a preview of what's available at a farm near you, listed by county.
Extra virgin olive oil from historic groves; exotic Targhee sheep; real cowboys herding cattle; winetasting; daylilies in June and July; Italian and French heirloom vegetables.
Butte (and nearby counties)
Antique farming artifacts and photos; U-pick peaches; tours including a dairy and cheese-making plant; award-winning olive oils; Christmas trees; custom gift baskets.
Miner's picnic; historic mountain ranch; film festival; quilt show; logging jamboree; grape stomping; fresh meats; seasonal produce; cashmere yarns.
U-pick cherries, plums, peaches and nectarines; European-style farm; olive oils; winetasting; honey; hand-woven alpaca apparel; irises, daylilies and chrysanthemums.
Nature trails; picturesque wedding sites; fields of irises; Christmas trees; family crafts and activities; U-pick fruits and vegetables; bed and breakfast inns.
Antiques and memorabilia; Swedish village; dried fruits and nuts; blossom trail; fresh fruits and vegetables; "Got Nuts?" T-shirts and hats; specialty olives; pickled vegetables.
Grape stomp competition; vineyard run; quilt show; children's activities; dance demonstrations; brush-munching goats; packing shed tours; mule-drawn wagon tours.
Old-fashioned wagon rides; alpaca, sheep and cattle ranches; arts and crafts; grape stomping; pony rides; living history skits; agri-nature trail.
Seasonal produce including mandarins, pomegranates, specialty melons and squash; meats; wines; school tours; garden art and decor; Angora goats and Jacob's sheep.
Schoolhouse museum; nighttime nature walks; weddings, reunions and retreats; old-fashioned barn dance; fresh apples and fresh-pressed cider; breads, jams and fruit butters.
Vineyard-to-bottle education in one of California's top wine regions; food and wine pairing; arts and crafts; bicycling; picnicking; classic car show.
San Luis Obispo
Horseback riding; Old West museum; overnight cattle drive; wedding sites; U-picks including berries and flowers in spring, apples in summer and pumpkins in fall.
Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito
Fresh and dried produce; gift boxes; chocolate-dipped apricots and prunes; horseback riding; U-pick cherries; chestnuts; Christmas trees; wedding sites; rare and unusual roses.
Eggs; livestock including miniature Hereford cattle; vegetables; English walnuts; melons; ornamental gourds; U-pick boysenberries; Asian pears; carved ostrich eggs; raw mohair.
Blues music; arts fair; heirloom tomatoes; walnuts and almonds; dried fruits; specialty trail mixes; vegetables offered for U-pick and farm stand sales; farm tours for schools.
Pumpkin patches; honey farm; artisan cheese; butterfly gardens; bed and breakfast inns; arts and ecology; corn maze; hayrides; fresh vegetables and melons; dahlias; Western outpost; Packard cars.
Fresh fruits and vegetables; almonds and walnuts; winetasting; honey; arts and crafts. E-mail the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a map.
Olives and olive oil; abbey tours; walnuts and almonds; winetasting.
Winetasting; working ranch; fresh fruits and vegetables; llamas; historic barns; heirloom orchards; equestrian clinics.
Eggs; flowers and herbs; llamas and alpacas; lavender; honey; olive oil; Christmas trees; guest ranches; bed and breakfast inns.
Berries, cherries, apples and peaches; almonds and walnuts; herbs and flowers; working wool mill; sustainable agriculture learning laboratory.
Seasonal produce including tomatoes, walnuts, mandarins, nectarines, pears, pomegranates, figs and apples; food culture museum; pumpkin farms; winetasting; olive oil.
UC Small Farm Program's California Agritourism Database provides a searchable list of agritourism operations in California.
Steve Adler is a reporter for California Country. He can be reached at 800-698-FARM or email@example.com.