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When many people think of farms, images of the Midwest come to mind. Granted, there are lots of farms growing corn, soybeans, and much more in Iowa and Illinois. But the state of California actually produces more food on farms than anywhere else in the nation. This goes against common California stereotypes that all anyone does here is hang out at the beach and go surfing. But it’s true that California leads the country in agricultural output!
Next time, you’re planning to fly into California or take a road trip through the state, why not experience the other side of California and see what this huge farming industry is all about? In Northern California, Southern California, and many places in between, there are farms that you can visit, tour, and buy locally grown products to savor and enjoy. It’s hard to narrow down the list of amazing farmers here, but these are some of the best farms to visit when you’re in California!
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If you’re traveling through the Death Valley area to experience this epic national park, then consider making a stop in Tecopa to visit the China Ranch Date Farm. There are actually lots of date farms in California, and many of them offer free samples, tours, and wonderfully refreshing date shakes made with delicious ice cream. China Ranch is a small family-owned farm that is truly an oasis in the desert. It’s located within hiking distance of the Old Spanish Trail and fascinating abandoned mines. When you visit, you can try fresh dates and bread, muffins, and cookies made with dates. The shop is open every day except for Christmas and is an easy 85-mile drive from Las Vegas as well. There’s a small museum that’s open to the public, and the China Ranch is available for film and photography shoots. If you stay in the area, there are free, natural hot mineral baths nearby and some great places to camp.
For farm-fresh fruits and veggies in Southern California, look no further than Tanaka Farms. This Irvine destination allows you to take a guided walking tour around the farm to pick your own produce. Some tours have themes, such as the Fall Harvest and Holiday tours as well as the Strawberry, Melon and Corn tours. Throughout the year, there are also watermelon, pumpkin patch, and Christmas tree tours. The Tanaka Farms produce stand is open daily and features fresh favorites like broccoli, carrots, baby bok choi, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, and organic blueberries. Make sure to bring your own water, wear comfortable close-toed shoes, and leave your pets at home.
This is a Southern California farm that’s in its fifth generation in Camarillo. McGrath Family Farm is a sustainable farm that grows year-around organic fruits and vegetables for the community. The roadside market is open daily. You can find McGrath produce at seven different farmers’ markets in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Ventura Counties. However, a big priority of this farm is agricultural education, so it offers tours year-round. You can email the farm to schedule a tour when you’ll be in the area. Educational school tours are offered, as well as pumpkin tours in October and private tours with the owner. McGrath also offers farm education days where you can learn about organic farming practices on the third Sunday of each month.
Vierra Farms is the famous location of Dave’s Pumpkin Patch, but it also offers fresh onsite product, Christmas trees, and is a wedding venue. This farm was established in 1989 and run by David Vierra, who cultivates his grandfather’s two-acre garden and another 800 acres of specialty vegetables. The pumpkin patch opens up on the last weekend of September, and the Christmas tree farm opens up on Black Friday right after Thanksgiving. There’s also a fresh produce stand that opens up in early July and offers sweet corn, zucchinis, peaches, pears, watermelons, and more. The hours for each of these farm offerings vary by the season.
Many people think that luffas and sea sponges are the same thing and that they’re all collected from the ocean to use for bath and cleaning products. If you visit the Luffa Farm in Nipomo, you will be corrected on this matter and learn how luffas are really grown. They are actually grown in greenhouses like zucchini or squash, and this is one of the only growers of natural luffa sponges in the U.S. This is a family farm that grows and harvests luffas and makes all of its products by hand. Informal tours of the small property are free and offered without reservations on Wednesdays through Sundays. After getting a personal tour, you can browse the small gift shop and purchase a natural luffa of your very own, as well as homemade soaps and lotions. The aromatherapy products here are packaged beautifully and make great gifts.
San Diego is known for being one of the best places in the U.S. for craft beer lovers because of its many breweries. You can learn about where all that delicious beer gets its start by visiting the San Diego Golden Hop Farm in Fallbrook. This farm grows hops for the beer industry in North San Diego County. It provides tours and hosts harvest parties, and it’s been featured on local television. The hop farm also offers wet and dried hops for sale and ships them within 24 hours of being picked. Hop growing kits are also sold to build your own trellis for growing hops at home. Rocky the Golden is the resident dog that is loved by all who visit.
Cache Creek is a family-owned farm in Capay Valley that harvests lavender. The farm dates back to 1997 when Charley Opper and Linda Barrett chose this piece of land and planted their first lavender crop. Today, they offer a wide range of lavender products and gifts to visitors. The Lavender Festival takes place in June each year, which is a fun weekend with live music, local wines, field talks, and lavender foods and drinks. This is also a popular spot for weddings.
To pick your own berries, tangerines, and figs, head to Underwood Family Farms in Somis. This is a family-friendly farm that is open every day throughout the year and has an animal center as well. One of the most fun things to do here is to pick your own strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. For kids, this is a fun place to host a birthday party, take an educational farm tour, or attend farm camp in the summer. Even if you can’t make it to the farm, you can find Underwood produce at farmers’ markets in the Los Angeles area.
McClelland’s is a dairy farm, but it is also an organic pumpkin patch and sells free-range eggs and organic artisan butter. It’s located in the hills of Sonoma County and committed to providing an organic pasture with no GMO’s, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. This farm offers tours that are designed for both kids and adults with a hands-on approach to learning about farming. The traditional farm tour takes you through the history of the farm and to see baby calves. You’ll watch a cow being milked by hand and learn about the milking parlor over the 1.5-hour tour. You can also take a private tour of the farm, and the farm turns into a pumpkin patch in October.
This is a restored 1910 dairy farm that has hundreds of alpine goats on a pasture in Pescadero. It raises milking goats and makes cheese from their milk on the farm. Farm tours are typically offered at 11am and 1pm, and you can schedule a tour online. Farm dinners and workshops are also offered at Harley Farms Goat Dairy.