“People enjoy being outside and meeting the farmers, seeing what they’re growing and hearing about their issues,” says Penny Ellis, who launched the free monthly tour group about a year ago and is also one of the organizers of the Corralitos Open Farms Tour. In addition to Route 1 Farms, she’s arranged behind-the-scenes visits to Love Apple Farms, Far West Fungi, UCSC Farm, Camp Joy, the Homeless Garden Project, Shumei Farm and Ouroboros aquaponic farm in Half Moon Bay. More than 200 people now belong to the meetup group, although the average tour size is 20–25. One way to better understand the full scope of Salinas Valley agriculture is to sign up for one of Evan Oakes’ Ag Venture Tours. Oakes was a farm advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension in Salinas and was often called on to guide visiting dignitaries. He thought it was pretty fun and decided to turn it into a business. Now he offers 18 different programs, including agriculture, wine tasting and culinary tours. “People love the ag tour,” he says. “They want to teach their children about where food comes from.” Oakes often starts his tours at Pezzini Farms in Castroville. He walks out into the fields to show visitors how artichokes grow and explains how to prepare them. “Tourists love the diversity of crops around here, where there are 90 different things growing practically yearround,” he says, noting that by contrast, in some states, agriculture is dominated by just a few commodity crops. For those interested in do-it-yourself tours, Salinas Valley tourism officials are beta testing a smartphone app to launch this summer called Field2Fork. It’s a self-guided driving tour that takes people by fields, packing houses, coolers and vineyards for wine tasting. While visitors cannot enter most agricultural facilities due to health regulations, the app includes videos that take you inside the production plants. Farm classes and dinners Another way to get a quick farm fix is by signing up for a class or farmto fork dinner, which are especially popular in our area during the summer months. Love Apple Farms in the Santa Cruz Mountains offers on-farm classes every weekend, including gardening instruction from owner Cynthia Sandberg. Chefs and other instructors are brought in to teach everything you need to know to run your own homestead, from beekeeping and raising chickens to making sausages, sauerkraut and cheese. Participants are free to stroll the gardens where Sandberg grows dozens of exotic varieties of vegetables exclusively for Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos. Docent-led tours of the farm are also available once a month. The UCSC Farm and Alan Chadwick Garden on the campus above Santa Cruz are always open to visitors, and free guided tours are held on the first Sunday of every month at 2pm. Learning gardening and pruning techniques from the world-class experts on campus—who hold public classes monthly—is a real bonus for those of us living in the Monterey Bay area. In Ben Lomond, former scientist Patricia Davis is reinventing herself after working for 26 years in the aerospace industry. She has opened Quail Hollow Kitchens and teaches artisanal food preparation like sourdough breadmaking, canning and preserving and pickling—using 100-year-old recipes and techniques from her Hungarian ancestors. Participants can visit chickens and ducks she raises on her 26-acre ranch. In the northern Big Sur area known as Palo Colorado, Peter Eichorn, whose honey and Meyer lemons are legendary, offers small beekeeping classes at his scenic paradise of organic fruits and vegetables called Country Flat Farm. Farm-to-table dinners provide perhaps the most elegant way to enjoy the pastoral beauty of local farms. Tour the fields at sunset and feast the night away courtesy of talented local chefs and winemakers. Check the dinner schedules of Route 1 Farms, Lonely Mountain Farm, the Homeless Garden Project and Outstanding in the Field. Finally, joining a CSA is probably the best way to ensure you’ll be invited out to the farm. Popular CSAs like High Ground Organics, Live Earth Farm, Morris Grassfed Beef, Homeless Garden Project and Garden Variety Cheese all host special events for members at least once a year. EXPLORE: To keep on top of new farm-based events like dinners, classes and tours as they are announced, go to www.ediblemontereybay. com to subscribe to Edible Monterey Bay’s weekly e-newsletter. Also see related listings of local farm stay opportunities (p. 56), farm tours and open houses (this page), summer 2015 u-picks (p. 54), and farmbased activities for kids (p. 56). SUMMER 2015 FARM TOURS AND OPEN HOUSES June 20 – Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Open House Flower, fruit tree and succulent growers in the Watsonville area throw open the doors to their greenhouses for guided tours, demonstrations and plant sales at discount prices. From 10am–4pm. Free. Aug. 29 – Annual Ag Tour Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum offers an up-close look at modern agriculture in action. The tour begins in King City and in past years has visited a carrot harvesting operation, a duck farm, packing shed, cattle ranch and winery. www.ediblemontereybay.com 55 Tickets are $65 and include breakfast, lunch and snacks. Oct. 11 – Corralitos Open Farms Tour The first year was so successful, they’re doing it again. A self-guided tour of seven farms in the Corralitos area aimed at educating people about where our food comes from and the importance of small family farms. From 10am–4pm. Free.
edible Monterey Bay Summer 2015
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