Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences
University of California
Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences

Posts Tagged: agritourism

Let them eat cherries: Planning a U-Pick operation on your farm

Farmers work long hours under the open sky, struggling to finish each day's planting, cultivating, pruning or picking before the sun sets. It's hard sometimes to imagine, while engaged in this day-to-day pressure, but city people often welcome the chance to pay for an hour or two on that farm, especially if they can pick their own fresh fruit or vegetables. For many urban people, just getting out of town to a farm is a delicious pleasure.

Strawberries! - Pacific Star Gardens
The University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), a statewide program of UC ANR, has just published online a useful guide for farmers considering starting a U-Pick operation on a California farm. Planning a U-Pick Operation on Your California Farm can be downloaded free. The guide is part of a larger project, funded by the USDA's Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), called "Growing California Agritourism Communities." 

U-Pick farming has a long tradition. Fifty years ago it was common for families to spend an afternoon picking bushels of produce to take home for canning or drying or storing for use in the winter. As more women joined the workforce full-time, the practice of preserving food became less common and U-Pick farms shifted their focus.

Visiting a farm became an enjoyable family experience, designed to build lasting memories, often with an underlying goal for farm visitors of teaching children where their food comes from. With the current popularity of local food and culinary adventures, U-Pick farming operations are growing in popularity and attracting new customers.

Full sack of fresh beans - R. Kelley Farm
When customers pick their own, the farmer does not have to pick or pay someone else to pick, and doesn't have to sort, pack or truck the produce to market. They get retail price (or close to it), and get to see the happy faces of satisfied customers heading home from "their" farm.

However, U-Pick farming comes with risks. Customers need welcoming and caring for, and they tend to break branches, wander where they are asked not to, and not show up when the weather is bad, even if the crops are ripe and ready. Farmers considering a U-Pick operation need to understand their liability and food safety responsibilities, budget and set prices carefully, and train staff in customer service skills.

UC SAREP staff developed the guide with the help of several California U-Pick farm operators who were willing to share their experience and advice with other farmers. The guide also includes advice provided by farmers and Extension educators from other states. Topics include:

  • Crop Diversity and Packaging
  • Location and Layout
  • Communications and Promotion
  • Permitting and regulatory compliance
  • Financial Planning and Budgeting
  • Staffing considerations
  • Food safety & Risk Management
  • Pricing
  • Complementary products & attractions

After careful consideration, farmers may decide that a U-Pick operation is not for them, or they may decide to move forward with building lifelong connections with a community of grateful customers.

To find a farm to visit (including U-Pick farms) visit the UC Agritourism Directory and Calendar, www.calagtour.org.

For more agritourism resources for farmers, visit the UC SAREP website, or contact Penny Leff, agritourism coordinator, paleff@ucdavis.edu

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 11:20 AM
Tags: agritourism (15)

Bananas!

Did you know that a banana tree is not really a tree? It's a giant perennial bulb that grows to maturity in less than a year, producing one flower that becomes one huge bunch of bananas. I learned this fact last month from banana growers while visiting the home of organic bananas, the Dominican Republic.

I was invited by a US AID Farmer-to-Farmer project to spend a couple of weeks as a volunteer in the Dominican Republic, primarily to work with the Banelino Banana Cooperative. Banelino is a banana production and exporting company comprised of approximately 320 mostly small-scale banana producers in the northwest section of the country, near the border with Haiti. All producers are certified, or seeking, organic, fair trade, or Global Gap certifications.

(Photo: Roberta Almerez)

Eighty percent of the bananas grown by Banelino are certified organic, and most of them are fair trade certified. The primary export destination for Dominican Republic organic bananas is Europe.

The growers have been impacted by climate change problems, including strong winds, more frequent and intense droughts and record high temperatures. My assignment, based on my work as UC Cooperative Extension Agritourism Coordinator, was to help Banelino assess the potential for successful agritourism development to diversify their income and carry them through hard times.

Like farmers all over the world, the Banelino banana growers have a story to share with visitors. Part of the story is the fascinating revelation of the annual growth cycle of the banana plant; the other part of the story is about the community. I learned the true meaning for the words "fair trade."  With the premium, or the added income, that Banelino receives by selling in the fair trade program, the company is able to provide schools, clinics and other social programs for the banana grower and banana worker families. We visited schools and talked with teachers, seeing primary grades classes smaller than most California classes, with children engaged in learning. We visited a school for special needs students, paid for through the Banelino fair trade income, that was so modern and well-equipped it would be the envy of most California special education teachers. It had a colorful art room and a fully equipped, small-scale bakery with mixers and ovens for a training program for the older youth.

Banelino Primary school. (Photo: Roberta Almerez)

Also, like other farmers around the world, Banelino growers have a challenge developing a program to attract paying visitors to tour the farms and learn their stories. They will need to create signs and brochures in multiple languages for their visitors. They will need to work with a local marketing professional to develop a website and social media marketing campaign. They will have to analyze their costs and price their tour so that they don't lose money in the efforts. They will need to connect with the local tourism community and get included in visitor guides and tourism maps. They will need to offer familiarization tours to travel agents, tour leaders and hotel staff to entice them to refer tourists from the all-inclusive beach resorts three hours' drive away. They will have to work with their local hotel association to create an attractive itinerary for visitors to the region - enough attractions to keep guests overnight in hotels - to justify the three-hour drive.

Like farmers everywhere who are considering agritourism, the Banelino banana growers will soon be part of the hospitality industry. They have a wonderful story to share of a hard-working and warm-hearted community. Please look them up if you visit the Dominican Republic.

(Photo: Roberta Almerez)
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 9:16 AM

Summer farm fun

This time of year, most farmers don't get much sleep. Tomatoes, pears and peaches often ripen in the Sacramento Valley faster than the harvest crews can pick them, even working 12-hour days. But this is also the season that some farmers are happy to show off their farms to visitors, inviting guests to enjoy the delightful flavors and beauty of the harvest in a pause from the bustle. UC Cooperative Extension hosts an online agritourism directory and calendar, www.calagtour.org, to help Californians find farms and ranches to visit. Here are a few upcoming opportunities for summer fun on California farms, pulled from the calendar:

  • The farmers of Five Foot Farm.
    Plumas County Farm Crawl
    - Up the Feather River Canyon, on the eastern side of the Sierras, are the beautiful communities of Quincy and Indian Falls. Small-scale growers, members of Plumas Grown, offer tours and fresh snacks from their fields from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday August 6, 2016. Each farm will offer tours on the half hour (8:30, 9:30, 10;30 and 11:30). Participating farms include a school garden project, Five Foot Farm, Shoofly Farm and Sundberg Growers. Strawberries, tomatoes, garlic, carrots, huge heads of lettuce, hoop houses, and intense cultivation on small plots will be featured. Bring the kiddos, friends and family (no dogs please). All of these operations use sustainable growing practices and are happy to chat with you about why they love to grow good food. Admission by donation, no pre-registration required. Learn more: (707) 217-6415 or www.plumasgrown.com/
  • Good Humus Peach Party (Yolo County) - Every year on the first Saturday in August, Jeff and Annie Main, owners of 20-acre Good Humus Produce, hold a celebration to give thanks for the year's fruit harvest. They invite you all to come out, see the farm, have a refreshment and enjoy all that Good Humus has to offer. This is a pot luck party; guests are asked to bring a dish to share and their own plates, silverware and cups. No cost, but donations are welcomed. The Mains will provide peach pies, peach ice cream, peach salsa, peach pizzas, and more. You are invited to come early and be part of the experience of making all the peachy fun food. Other activities include a treasure hunt, farm tours, stock tank dipping, music and neighborly chat. Saturday August 6, 1 p.m. - 11 p.m. Learn more
  • Tomato Sauce Party at Eatwell Farm (Solano County) - It's time to join in on the tradition. Let's get canning! Tomato season is in full swing on the farm, and the plants are bursting with ripe and juicy tomatoes ready for picking. Join us as we harvest the bounty of the farm, toss it in a pot, and create delicious tomato sauce to savor the rest of the year. The produce is free, so bring as many jars as you can process over the two day event. The ticket price covers the cost of hosting the event and paying staff. Cost: adults $20, Children $5. August 6 - 7, 2016  Learn more and buy tickets here
  • Grape Days of Summer (Placer County) - Celebrate PlacerGROWN — local wine, local food, local agriculture. Take a self-guided tour of up to 20 wineries, taste foothill wines and enjoy a unique and educational experience at each stop on the Placer County Wine Trail. Saturday & Sunday, August 6 & 7, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. WHERE: Placer County Wine Trail - Auburn, Lincoln, Loomis, Meadow Vista, Newcastle & Rocklin. Activities: Learn About Wine & Wine Making • Live Music at Some Locations • Food at Every Winery • Barrel Tastings • Vineyard Tours • Vertical Tastings • . . . and more! Tickets: Weekend Pass - $45.00,  Sunday Only - $25.00/person, Designated Driver - $10.00/person  website, more info
  • Wine and Produce Passport Weekend (Sacramento River Delta) - Just minutes from Sacramento and Elk Grove, along scenic CA Hwy 160, Delta Farm and Winery Trail members will open their farms and wineries to the public. Farms are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and wineries from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  During Passport Weekend, enjoy farm tours, local wine tastings, farm equipment displays, and contests. Fresh produce - including tomatoes, pears, melons, squash, stone fruits, sweet corn, zucchini, beans, eggs, and organic produce - will be readily available at many of the farms. Saturday and Sunday August 13 and 14. Tickets: adults $25 in advance, $35 week of purchase and are valid for both days. Kids under 21 are free. Tickets are available for purchase online at www.deltapassport2016.eventbrite.com. Each visitor over 21 will receive a wine glass at their first winery stop. sacriverdeltagrown.org/
  • Good Land Organics Coffee Tour (Santa Barbara County) - The tour will be lead by Good Land Organics owner and grower, Jay Ruskey. You will be welcomed with fresh coffee, freshly made juice and seasonal fruit.  Jay will give an overview of the coffee research collaboration that has been conducted with the assistance of the University of California Small Farm Program.  He will then lead you on a moderate level hike where Ruskey will explain the dynamics of new crop adaptation and integration of organic tree fruit agriculture. The walk will
    Coffee trees at the Good Land Organics farm.
    take you through the eclectic mix of exotic fruit varieties that grow on the farm. Each person will have an opportunity to taste a fresh picked coffee berry and discover the original flavors of the coffee bean, while discussing coffee cultivation and post harvest processing. On your return hike, there will be time for open discussion and for any further questions.  At noon you have the option to enjoy your picnic lunch at our pond. August 13, 2016, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Cost: $50 per person. website, reservations

Learn about more farms, ranches and adventurous fun at www.calagtour.org.

Posted on Monday, August 1, 2016 at 2:12 PM

Celebrate the harvest - visit a farm

All over California, farmers are harvesting the last summer crops, picking apples, crushing grapes, and watching pumpkins ripen. All over California, farmers also welcome the public to enjoy family-friendly harvest festivals, education and entertainment. To help urban and suburban Californians connect with local farms and agricultural events, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) hosts the UC Agritourism Directory.

Here is a sampler of harvest season fun on the farms this month:

Apple Hill Growers' Association - El Dorado County

About 50 years ago, when a pear blight destroyed the pear crop in the El Dorado County foothill region near the small town of Camino, UC Cooperative Extension pomology specialist and farm advisor Ed Delfino worked with local growers to save their ranches. They began to plant apples, formed the Apple Hill Growers' Association and started inviting their neighbors from the valley to visit the farms for fresh apples and fun. Since the time of the group's first apple press and press picnic in 1964, the original ranch marketing association has blossomed into a very successful ranch marketing endeavor.

Today, Apple Hill includes over 55 ranchers, including Christmas tree growers, wineries, vineyards and a spa. For 50 years, Sacramento region families, along with those from the east side of the Sierras, have made a tradition of driving up Highway 50 to enjoy picking apples, drinking wine, arts and crafts, pies, jams, jellies, music, and other activities. Visitors will find their day filled with old-fashioned fun. 

The ranches are now open, with U-Pick orchards, entertainment, crafts, food and events at multiple locations.  Learn more at www.applehill.com/.

For current information, download the free official Apple Hill™ app available through itunes or in the Google Play Store.

Oak Glen Apple Growers Association - San Bernardino County

Oak Glen is where the Apple Hill growers visited to learn how to share their apple harvest with the public, back in 1964. One of the most scenic spots in Southern California, Oak Glen is nestled in the heart of Apple Country, where it is cooler in the summer and winter offers snow. An hour or so from Los Angeles or Palm Springs, the 30 members of the Oak Glen Apple Growers Association offer a pleasant day trip or weekend away from town.

Visit orchards, pick fresh apples and drink fresh-pressed cider, and enjoy hot apple pie and other fresh baked apple treats at one of the family restaurants. Other attractions include an animal park, the Wildlands Conservancy, horse drawn wagon rides, the historical Oak Glen School House Museum and many activities offered by the different farms.

For apple picking and other fun: www.oakglen.net/

Grape Stomping, food, drink and fun in the Capay Valley, Yolo County - September 19, 2015

The 5th Annual Capay Crush will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the beautiful Capay Valley, with a full slate of activities for all ages, including live music from Hot City Jazz and Dirty Cello, wine tasting, local food and grape stomping. Attendees are invited to camp overnight in the farm orchards. Event proceeds benefit the Kathleen Barsotti Non-Profit for Sustainable Agriculture (KBNP).

Guests can step into a vat of grapes and stomp until their feet are purple. Visitors can also ride the farm's tractor tram, enjoy free honey and olive oil tastings, take part in grape-themed activities and crafts, visit the petting zoo, and take a self-guided walking tour of Capay Organic. 

Tickets are on sale now through Sept. 17, for $15 per person (children ages 12 and under are free) or 4 tickets for $50. After Sept. 17, tickets will be sold at the farm for $20 per person. Guests can also camp overnight at the farm in the orchards. Campsites can be reserved in advance for $35 each at www.capaycrush2015.eventbrite.com by Sept. 17 (admission not included). 

To purchase tickets, go to: www.capaycrush2015.eventbrite.com. Call 1-800-796-6009 with any questions.

Work Day & Barn Dance at Pie Ranch by the coast - Pescadero, September 19, 2015

Pie Ranch is a small working farm by coastal Highway 1 that cultivates a healthy and just food system, from seed to table. Celebrate the spirit of community at this monthly ritual of touring or working together on the ranch, sharing locally grown food, and then spinning, laughing and dosey-doing together into the night. 

RSVP for the work day and/or barn dance by emailing simone@pieranch.org.  Private groups of more than 10 are encouraged to schedule a separate tour/program with the farm as they are attempting to keep the dance open and accessible to the greater community. 

The work day begins at 2 p.m. Park past the roadside barn and check in at the roadside barn. The tour begins at 4 p.m. Entry is $10 to 20 per person, charged on a sliding scale. Pay at the Roadside Barn. A potluck dinner begins at 6 p.m. The event is alcohol free. The barn dance is from 7 to 10 p.m. Entry is $12 to 20 (sliding scale).
Children under 12 are free. More information on the work day and barn dance here. 

News flash from Pie Ranch: "We planted the tomato plants in the spring and now we are up to our ears in tomatoes! While the summer bounty lasts, we will be holding our Cherry Tomato U-Pick everyday! Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., you are welcome to stop by the ranch and pick cherry tomatoes right off the vine!

Weekend Along the Farm Trails - Sonoma County - September 26 & 27, 2015

On Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26 and 27, 2015, Sonoma County farmers will open their gates and barn doors to offer a behind-the-scenes peek at life on the farm.

Most of the stops are free.

All you need is transportation, a map of your route, a cooler to keep your purchases fresh, and a sense of adventure!  Register now for your chance to

~ Explore Sonoma County's vibrant agricultural community.
~ Experience life on the farm behind the barnyard gates.
~ Meet your farmers, vintners & artisan producers.
~ Enjoy tastes, tours, & demonstrations fresh from the source.

Please note that some farms are only open one day. Feel free to contact the organizers with questions: farmtrails@farmtrails.org.

Please let the organizers know how many people will be in your car by selecting the corresponding number of tickets.  Register now 

Bloomingcamp Ranch Harvest Festival - Oakdale - September 26 & 27, 2015


Admission is free for this small farm festival near Modesto. Bring the family for live entertainment, chef demos, hayrides, games, kids art patch, pie eating contest, petting zoo, local arts and crafts and a car show. It all happens at Bloomingcamp Ranch, 10528 Highway 120, in Oakdale. For more information: www.bloomingcampranch.com or (209) 847-7437

Farm and Ranch Tour in the Sierra foothills - Mariposa County - September 26, 2015

The Mariposa AgriNature Association invites you to enjoy the bounty of their beautiful foothills. Experience the diversity of California's Sierra Foothills near Yosemite National Park.

The 2015 farm and ranch tour features four farm and ranch locations, along with a special display of the UC Master Gardeners near downtown along the Creek Parkway. Each location will showcase their unique agricultural operations, and vendors and artists will be set up as well.

Tickets are $10 per person, or $25 for a whole car. Kids under 12 are free when accompanying a paying adult. Tickets may be purchased at any tour location and are good for all locations. website/more info

Hoes Down Harvest Festival - Capay Valley, Yolo County - October 3 & 4, 2015

Join 5,000 festival attendees and 200 volunteers on the 300-acre organic Full Belly Farm for a full day, or a weekend, of fun, music, activities and education for all ages.

On Saturday, enjoy live music, circus performances, kids arts and crafts, a kids hay fort, contra dancing, agricultural workshops, farm tours, good food, a crafts fair and farmers' market, and more music. The silent auction features a range of affordable treats.

Camping is available on Saturday night in the walnut orchard, with breakfast and longer workshops and activities offered on Sunday.

All of the proceeds from the Hoes Down Harvest Celebration go to non-profit organizations that support sustainable agriculture and rural living.

Admission Prices:
Adults: $20 when purchased online – $25 at the gate.
Children (2-12): $5
Under 2: Free
Saturday Night Camping: $25 per car – No reservations needed.
website, tickets, more info


For more info about these events and more California farms and ranches to visit, see www.calagtour.org

Author: Penny Leff

Posted on Friday, September 11, 2015 at 9:20 AM

It's October - Take the kids to a farm!

Before Halloween comes the harvest festival and the pumpkin patch.

Although most of us don't live on farms or have relatives who farm, the shortening days and the crispness in the air still remind us somehow that it's harvest time. All over California, farmers are opening their gates and sharing their harvest celebrations with the rest of us. What better time to make sure the kids know where pumpkins, corn, and everything else they eat comes from?

Here are some family-friendly harvest celebrations coming up soon:

  • Sierra Oro Farm Trail Passport Weekend, Butte County - Saturday & Sunday, Oct. 11, 12
    Passport holders can set their own pace, take self-guided tours of the scenic agricultural trails, meet local farmers and winemakers and sample the amazing bounty of locally-owned wineries and specialty farms located throughout Butte County.

  • Shone Farm Fall Festival, Santa Rosa - Saturday, Oct. 11
    The festival, which marks the Farm's 42nd year, will include activities such as apple pressing, a rotten tomato slingshot game, pumpkin and vegetable picking, hayrides and tours of the 365-acre farm and forest. Santa Rosa Junior College Agriculture & Natural Resources Department students will demonstrate wood milling, compost making, lead tours and introduce visitors to the farm's horses, sheep and chickens, and talk about their upkeep. In addition, children can have their faces painted and make stick horses and other crafts. This free festival runs from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11. The farm is located at 7450 Steve Olson Lane, Forestville. For more information, visit shonefarm.com.

  • Stehly Farms Organic Pumpkin Patch, San Diego - Sunday, Oct. 12
    Kids are back in school, the nights are (hopefully) getting cooler, and fall is here! What better way to celebrate than some pumpkin picking? Pumpkin Picking. Tractor Rides. Farm Stand. Devil Dogs BBQ. Market Juices. All Ages Welcome! $6, Kids 4 and Under Free

  • Farm & Barn Tour, Placer County - Sunday, Oct. 12
    The whole family will enjoy the PlacerGROWN Farm & Barn Tour, a FREE self-guided expedition of farms, ranches, and vineyards in the beautiful countryside of Placer County. Each farm venue will feature different activities, tours, and demonstrations. Locally grown produce, meats, wine, and more will be available for purchase. Learn more
  • PlacerGROWN Harvest Festival, Rocklin - Saturday & Sunday, Oct. 18, 19
    Don't miss the PlacerGROWN Harvest Festival, a FREE event of family fun including a pumpkin patch, pumpkin lighting display at dusk, movie in the park, scarecrow building contest, farmers' market and more.
  • Work Day & Barn Dance, Pescadero - Saturday, Oct. 18
    Celebrate the spirit of community with Pie Ranch at this monthly ritual of touring or working together on the ranch, sharing locally grown food, and then spinning, laughing and dosey-doing together into the night. 

  • Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) Day at the Pumpkin Patch, Nicasio - Sunday, Oct. 19
    Pick an organic pumpkin, make your own cheese, taste local Marin wine and beer, pick up locally sourced sandwiches, salads and burgers from The Farmer's Wife and Stemple Creek Ranch, and let the kids go crazy with crafts at MALT Day. This event is free and open to the public.

  • Live Earth Farm Harvest Festival, Watsonville - Saturday, Oct. 25
    Celebrate the Bounty of the Pajaro Valley and the Monterey Bay Area! Join us for fun on the farm for the whole family. Honor the changing of the seasons and celebrate the Harvest with us on the farm.

These and many more farm and ranch events can be found on the UC Agritourism Directory, www.calagtour.org, managed as a public service by the UC Small Farm Program.

Have fun!

Posted on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 9:25 AM

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