Driving along the 101, as the cities of Oxnard and Camarillo pass by, fields of strawberries and produce dot the landscape from the freeway and back toward the hills. Ventura County has a long tradition of being the bread basket for the state and country, and in celebration of Ventura’s bountiful farming history, the first annual Ventura County Farm Day opens up local farms for tours and a little bit of education.
Nine of Ventura’s most prominent farms will host free tours and activities to help residents better understand the impact of local fields. Alongside cooking demos and taste testing, farmers will talk about what it takes to provide food for the county and the country. Each of the farms has a unique aspect in the world of agriculture locally.
Friends Ranch, located in Ojai, has been a family-run operation since the 1870s. More than 40 varieties of citrus are grown, including the famous Ojai Pixie tangerine on 75 acres of land owned by the family. As part of Farm Day, the ranch will be open for tours and demonstrations, as well as allowing visitors to make their own orange juice.
Oxnard’s Deardorff Farms has been in business for 76 years and is a certified organic farm. Its brand of tomato, the Tasti-Lee, can only be found at the site; and the recent start of its community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscription allows locals to sample many of its organic products. Visitors can tour the farmhouse and speak with one of the Deardorff farmers.
Mary Maranville, executive director of Students for Eco Education and Agriculture (SEEAG), said that Farm Day is the best way for residents to learn where the food on their table comes from.
“We all eat every single day and yet when I ask people if they’re connected to agriculture, most of them say no,” says Maranville. “It’s a chance for people to visit the farms in their own backyard that are growing food for us. I also want people to appreciate all the hard work that farmers do every day to get food to us.”
Over the past few months, an influx of quality farmers markets has sprung up in the county. The East Ventura Farmers Market is the first certified organic market in the city of Ventura, while mainstays like the Channel Islands Harbor farmers market and the organic Ojai Certified Farmers Market continue to pull in regulars and local farmers selling their produce.
Other farms participating include Santa Paula’s Limoniera, which will provide trolley tours of the farm and offer a lemonade-making station; Underwood Family Farms, which is already undergoing its Fall Festival and has a pumpkin patch, antique tractor pulls and various farmers to speak with; and Rancho del Pueblo, where farmer Steve Sprinkel will host a meet-and-greet and tour of his organic fields.
Other destinations include:
Houwelings Ranch, Camarillo. Featuring tours and tastes.
McGrath Family Farms, Camarillo. Featuring an open market with produce and flowers, and the McGrath Great Pacific Pumpkins patch in Ventura.
Rio Gozo Farms, Ojai. A farm stand at Kneed Bakery in Ojai will have country music and a chance to take a picture with a farmer.
The Museum of Ventura County will host farm-themed activities for kids.
Ventura County Farm Day takes place this Saturday, Oct. 12, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at nine different farms across the county. For more information, visit http://www.vcagriculturaleducation.com.