Farm Days / U-Pick, Farm Dinners and Farm Stays in Southern California

If you’re familiar with our instagram feed (@everydayadventurefam), then you’re probably aware of my love for farms.  If there are fruits and vegetables to pick and/or eat, farm animals to see, opportunities to learn about sustainable farming – we’re there. Lucky for us, there are many farms to visit in Southern California, as well as opportunities for farm dinners and farm stays!

I did not grow up on or near a farm, or eating organic farm to table food. My mom has a degree in food science and my parents are both very health concious, so the focus was more on avoiding processed foods and artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives whenever possible.  I always enjoyed strawberry picking in the spring and apple picking in the fall in New England, but my parents took us at most once every few years.  The only pets I ever had were fish, and I was terrified of dogs (and most animals) for the first half of my life after being chased by a dog when I was three. But it only makes sense that I would come to love farms. I prioritize health and wellness, and love food, nature, and the outdoors. Farms bring these interests together.

I spent the summer between undergraduate and medical school in Providence Rhode Island.  On a whim, on a day off from my research project and waitressing, I decided to go pick raspberries and blackberries at a nearby farm! I found it to be a very relaxing and meditative experience. I took my time to select the ripest and sweetest berries, then went home and made homemade jams. I spent that summer picking fruit in season and making jams for families and friends.  I realized the difference between “freshly picked when ripe” versus supermarket bought fruits and produce, the former being vastly superior and tastier!

When we moved to Southern California, my husband and I decided to try our hand at a backyard garden. The reality is that we have black thumbs, and other than a few herbs and tomatoes – we haven’t had much success. Thankfully, there are many farms for us to visit nearby.

Visiting farms is a wonderful family activity. It is educational and entertaining for all ages.  It’s helped me overcome, for the most part, my fear of dogs/ big animals.  My boys can’t get enough of cute farm animals! We bring often bring my parents, and they enjoy the experience as well. We’ve picked a wide variety of vegetables and fruit including carrots, turnips, apples, pears, peaches, persimmons, cherries, avocados, oranges, blueberries, raspberries.  We’ve enjoyed eating our freshly picked fruit and vegetables, and the boys have helped me make muffins and jams.  We’ve learned a few things along the way about preparing for farm visits such as 1) wear hats, 2) wear sunscreen, 3) wear shoes that can get really muddy 4) be prepared to get dirty. Here are some more helpful tips for visiting a farm.

The following list (with links to more information/ websites) are farms in Southern California that we have visited and enjoyed over the past few years.  If you have more to suggest, please comment below!

Local Farms: Educational tours and family fun 

  • Tanaka Farms, Irvine  –  This is our local “go to” farm.   It’s less than ten minutes away from where we live, and has it all – wagon rides, u-pick, food for purchase, farm stand, seasonal events (ie pumpkin patch, corn maze).  It’s huge and well-organized. We always have fun and spend several hours here. Tip: they have great straw hats for kids and adults, as shown on boys below.

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  • The Ecology Center, San Juan Capistrano – Their mission statement notes “The Ecology Center believes in a world that gives more than it takes. Our non-profit organization takes pride in curating ecological experiences for everyone. On a mission to provide creative solutions for thriving on planet earth, we believe everyone should have access to the tools, knowledge, and skills that promote healthy communities and an abundant future for all.”  We’ve been to the Ecology center for the Eco-Tots program, and our boys enjoyed  learning about growing vegetables, raising chickens, and making seed balls.  We also pick strawberries every spring at the adjacent South Coast Farms. Recently, the two have merged, so we look forward to continuing to pick strawberries here next spring! Check out The Ecology Center’s calendar for more events.
  • Primal Pastures, Temecula – This was one of the first farm tours we went on in Southern California.  This small family farm was started in 2013, and is dedicated to “produce food that we feel good about feeding to ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren – food that is grown responsibly, sustainably, and according to nature’s brilliant design.” The tour was interesting and informative. We’ve ordered meats from them, and I made the best ever chicken soup!  I can vouch that their meats really do taste better.  They announce their farm tours and events on their instagram page.
  • California Citrus State Historic Park, Riverside:  This park tells the story of the citrus industry’s role in the history and development of California.  They offer a free guided tour where you can learn about California’s historic citrus industry and sample fresh fruit off the tree. These guided tours are offered every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 11:00am. Space is limited so it’s advised to pre-register by calling 951-780-6222 Monday-Thursday, or 951-637-8044 Friday-Sunday. Reservations are encouraged and walk ins are welcome when there is space available. We went on this tour, had a picnic lunch nearby, and then visited the March Air Field for a fun family day in Riverside!

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  • Ventura County Farm Day, throughout Ventura County:  Once a year in the fall, more than 20 Ventura County farms, ranches, and agricultural organizations open their doors and invite the public to experience a day of agricultural activities and tours.  This year, the 6th Annual Ventura County Farm Day was on November 3rd.  I brought my parents, and all 3 generations had a good time and we learned a lot. We visited Houweling’s tomatoes (I pack their cherry tomatoes in Alex’s lunchbox almost every day), Ventura Farms (which grows most of the raspberries we eat), McGrath family farm and Windy Hill Alpacas.

Southern California U-Pick (seasonal)

  • Oak Glen Ranches and Orchards:  Sept-Oct, Apples, Pears, Raspberries.  We love visiting Oak Glen in the fall. There are so many different farms, and we have visited different ones over the years. You can find upick, flower fields, pumpkin patches, hiking, and children’s activities such as candle making and more in Oak Glen. I did an entire post on visiting Oak Glen that you can read here.
  • Julian Apple Farms – Sept-Oct, Apples, Pears.  We visited Julian one fall instead of Oak Glen, and had a wonderful time picking apples and pears, as visiting farms along the way. We camped nearby at the William Heise County Park.
  • Temecula Berry Company, Temecula – Late Spring/ Summer, Blueberry picking.  We stopped here after our tour at primal pastures and the boys enjoyed picking out the juiciest sweetest blueberries.
  • McDonald Peach Orchard , Apple Valley – September.  Known as “The Peach Lady,” Marge McDonald, in her late 70’s, planted 504 peach trees on her family’s 5-acre property in the 1990s to honor her parents who loved “the farming lifestyle, fruit trees and God’s creation.” She opens up her small family peach farm to the public every September when the fruit is ripe.  Follow their Facebook page for upick dates and updates. The peaches were definitely worth the 1.5 hour drive there and back!  To read more about this farm, click here.

Southern California Farm Stays:

  • Oak Hollow Farm, Oak Glen:  We tent camped here Spring 2018, and fell in love with this place.  It’s all sorts of magic. Brenda has created a sanctuary for animals here – she has rescued and created the most idyllic environment for goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, horses, chickens, geese, cats, and dogs.  The tent camping is temporarily closed, but she offers other alternatives on Hipcamp and AirBnB.  These options are more geared towards two people/ adults. There is a listing for a gypsy wagon, and another for a private guest room. We’re hoping the campsite will open up again soon, because our kids absolutely love staying at this farm. Until then, you can also book family friendly llama hikes through Airbnb experience here.
  • EZE farm, Fillmore:  We stayed here with another family in the treehouse and cabin on an orange and avocado orchard, with free roaming chickens running amongst our boys.   We went in May and were able to enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice, and fresh avocado toast. This lovely farm was developed by Steve and Dina, who are the most wonderful hosts.  For updates on their events, click here.
  • Oats and Ivy farm, Somis:  This was our most recent farm stay. We stayed in the guest wing (can sleep up to 8) after spending the day visiting various farms for Ventura County Farm Day.  This is a working farm,  home to 70-something animals including Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, dogs, and cats. Amanda and Scott are great hosts, and took time to show us their farm, and to meet the goats. Scott showed us how to milk the goats and told us about their soap making process. Their goat milk soaps are so lovely, we bought a bunch for gifts.   Even if you can’t make it to their farm, you can find their soaps here.

Farm Dinners:

  • The Ecology Center, San Juan Capistrano:  Community Table – Adults Only.   We went to the most recent community table on my birthday’s eve. Each Community Table dinner explores a different agricultural theme and presents a unique menu tailored to the story. These dinners run from Spring to Fall.
  •  Saddlerock Gardens Farm Dinner, Malibu :  One of our favorite LA Chefs is David Wilcox who we met during our first year in Los Angeles at pop up supper club series called Summer Winter. When we heard he was the guest chef at one of these dinners, we quickly booked it. It was one of the best meals we’ve had, in the most beautiful surroundings.  Saddlerock Gardens hosts farm to table dinners spring through fall. Check their website for more details.
  • Harry’s Berries Strawberry Farm dinner, Oxnard: This farm to table dinner is family friendly! Once a year, usually late July, Harry’s Berries opens up its family farm in Oxnard for a benefit dinner.  For those of you who are familiar with the LA Farmer’s Market seen, Harry’s Berries have a cult following for their low acid super sweet gaviota strawberries.  You can buy these tickets at their farmer market booths when they make them available (usually May/June), or from a link posted on their facebook page.  The feast features their strawberries and tomatoes which our kids ate like candy.

All the opinions in this blog post are our own. This is not a sponsored post. We love these farms and unique farm stays so much that we almost want to keep them a secret for ourselves. But this blog is all about sharing wellness and goodness, so we hope this post inspires some of you to go out and visit / support your local farms!  To help you with planning your farmstay,  here are discount Codes for new bookings: Hipcamp: $10 off code: “EVERYDAYADVENTUREFAM;  Airbnb: $40 off with this link.  I do receive, and appreciate, the standard referral bonus if you book with my code or link.

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I am a mom, wife, daughter, sister, doctor, adventure enthusiast, food lover, and photographer. I spend a lot of time researching fun things for my family to do, explore and eat - so I created this space to share some information that might be helpful to others.

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