Most want to know which beaches to visit, not which farms in Southern California are worth checking out. A farm belongs in the vast Midwest, not in surf central, right? Absolutely not. Haven’t you seen the luxurious ranch in the 1998 remake of “The Parent Trap?” Though that particular ranch lives up in Napa Valley, Southern California has many gems for your viewing and harvesting pleasure. In fact, Los Angeles was once the top agricultural county in the nation, and San Diego County has over 6,500 small farms. Behold a carefully curated list of farms in Southern California to check out. Let’s take a respite from city life and dig into that soil.
Tanaka Farms – Irvine
Beloved for their organic strawberries usually available for in-person berry picking, Tanaka Farms wins the title of largest organic farm in Orange County. They make fresh hand dipped, chocolate covered strawberries daily. The U-Pick wagon rides take place whenever enough produce is available, and they include the aforementioned strawberries as well as other produce directly plucked from the soil. These harvesting tours also serve as a source of education about sustainable farming for the community. Don’t you want to know where your food comes from and how it’s grown?
For accessible fresh fruit and vegetables, take a look at the Tanaka Farms produce stand, open daily with an array of favorites like broccoli, baby bok choy, carrots, cherry tomatoes, organic blueberries, cilantro and more. Tanaka values responsible foreign methods to protect the food on your table and the environment. They use organic growing methods, such as crop rotation and employment of compost and organic fertilizer, unless crops fall into dangerous territory due to an infestation, in which case they use a low-grade synthetic approved pesticide.
McGrath Family Farm – Camarillo
If you frequent farmers markets in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, or Ventura Counties, then there’s a decent chance you have come across McGrath Family Farm produce. Come visit farm animals and explore the greenery of this Camarillo farm. MccPhil McGrath and his Irish American family have been running the farm using organic methods since 1995. They offer an assortment of year-round fruits, flowers and vegetables, which they provide to the community through farmers market stalls, restaurant deliveries and public tours. A family farm in its fifth generation in Camarillo, McGrath Family Farm prioritizes education through a variety of different methods, such as tours and Sundays dedicated to sustainable farming education.
Underwood Family Farms – Somis
Underwood Family Farms in Somis grows a wide variety of fun produce to pick yourself, like berries, herbs, sunflowers and fresh figs. This is a family-friendly farm open every day of the year with an adorable herd of farm animals. The farm hosts events including birthday parties and summer camp for kids. Underwood Family Farms will steal you away from the pandemonium and smog of Los Angeles into an idyllic green space.
Farm Sanctuary – Acton
Any skeptics of the efficacy of therapy animals need to visit the Farm Sanctuary of Acton. Just under an hour outside the urban chaos of Los Angeles, you will stumble across this 26-acre farm that provides sanctuary to rescued farm animals. Home to over 100 rescued farm animals, this space gives you a glimpse of the harsh conditions animals face at the mercy of modern demand for produce. Check out the tours on Saturdays and Sundays where you can see the farm in all its glory.
Willowbrook Apple Farm – Oak Glen
Though you can’t beat Washington State’s lush apple farms, this charming farm gives them a run for their money. Only an hour’s drive away from Los Angeles and Orange County, Willowbrook Apple Farm lets visitors pick their own apples, and you can even make your own apple cider during your autumn farm adventure. The orchard was planted more than 100 years ago in 1910, though the farm officially opened in 2004. If you end up visiting, you’re required to say hello to Star the mini-donkey.
Hidden Haven Farms – Jamul
Just 45 minutes from Downtown San Diego, Hidden Haven Farms may be the closest Southern California residents will get to living in the Shire or the plot of “Anne of Green Gables.” Learn some classic farming basics and participate in activities like beekeeping, horseback riding, milking a cow, roping and more. They also offer day camps and quaint accommodations. You can even lease a parcel of land from them. Be sure to check out the hikes in the area.
Apricot Lane Farms – Moorpark
All you need to entice you into visiting Apricot Lane Farms is the breathtaking panoramic view of the land on their website. If that doesn’t convince you, check out the award-winning, critically acclaimed documentary “The Biggest Little Farm.” Lauded by the San Francisco Chronicle as “one of the year’s best films,” the Apricot Lane documentary explores the joys and hardships of running a farm integrated within a reawakened ecosystem. John and Molly Chester founded Apricot Lane Farms in 2011, and it now spans 214 acres of countryside in Moorpark, California.
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