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Top pick-your-own farms in Southern California

Strawberry picking at Tanaka Farms Picking strawberries at Tanaka Farms in Irvine. | Photo courtesy Tanaka Farms

Over the years and through the seasons, my young family, like many others we know, has visited farms where you can pick your own produce. We’ve plucked and sampled sun-kissed berries right off the bush. We’ve pressed fresh cider and brought home apples to turn into a pie. Along the way, we’ve learned how our food grows and have been inspired to start our own backyard garden. And we’ve petted cute farm animals, too. 

This year, you-pick farms across Southern California continue to operate with additional measures to ensure socially distant, safe, and enjoyable visits. Although September might be off-season to pick produce at some of these farms, they still can be fun to visit. 

1. Tanaka Farms, Irvine

tanakafarms.com

Fruit and vegetable picking and tours available throughout the year. Advance registration required. $20 per person, which includes a wagon ride, a reusable bag, and picked produce. Drive-through produce market open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily.

A wagon ride is part of the fun at Tanaka Farms in Irvine, California

A wagon ride is part of the fun at Tanaka Farms. | Photo courtesy Tanaka Farms

Tanaka Farms’ story starts with Teruo Tanaka, who emigrated from Japan to California in 1922 to work as a farmhand. Today, Farmer Kenny is the fourth generation of Tanakas to farm in Orange County. Despite tract housing taking over sprawling farmland across the area in the 1950s, Tanaka Farms survived and now grows 60 varieties of fruit and vegetables on 30 acres. The farm leads educational tours throughout the year, which usually start with a wagon ride into the fields to pick strawberries (February–June), watermelons (starting in July or August), and pumpkins (October). This year, Tanaka Farms is holding a drive-through pumpkin patch in addition to its regular drive-through produce stand featuring fruit and vegetables grown on-site and at partner farms, as well as locally baked breads. 

 

2. Abundant Table, Camarillo

theabundanttable.org 

Farm stand available 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. Open for strawberry picking during late spring. $7 per person, which includes the cost of up to a pint of berries. 

The CSA box from The Abundant Table. | Photo by Linda Quiquivix / The Abundant Table

The CSA box from The Abundant Table. | Photo by Linda Quiquivix / The Abundant Table

The Abundant Table, which operates as a non-profit, certified organic farm cooperative, leases land from McGrath Family Farm on the Oxnard Plain. Children and adults can pick ripe, juicy strawberries while watching chickens and goats strut about freely. Along with Albion and Seascape strawberries, the bounty here includes heirloom tomatoes, beets, corn, carrots, and spinach, which are sold at the farm stand. The Abundant Table also sells fruit and vegetables at the Oxnard Farmers Market and through its own CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box.

 

3. 123 Farm, Cherry Valley

123farm.com

Open seasonally for walks in lavender fields, pumpkin picking, and themed festivals. Admission and prices vary.

Walking in the lavender fields at 123 Farm in Cherry Valley.

Walking in the lavender fields at 123 Farm. | Photo by Joyce Park / Highland Springs Ranch and Inn

Wander through 20 acres of fragrant, organic lavender fields in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains. Since 2005, the farm has hosted an annual summer lavender festival, where visitors can walk through the purple fields, enjoy lavender-infused food, make a lavender wreath, or watch a demonstration on distilling lavender oil. The farm hosts other festivals throughout the year as well, celebrating everything from beer to olives to chili peppers. (Activities are limited this year.) 

 

4. Underwood Family Farms, Moorpark and Somis

underwoodfamilyfarms.com

Open for picking berries, pumpkins, and other fruits and vegetables. Hours and prices vary seasonally. 

Picking produce at Underwood Family Farms.

Picking produce at Underwood Family Farms. | Photo Cynthia Bullard / Underwood Family Farms

With two longstanding farms in Ventura County, Underwood is a name many Southern Californians might recognize. Both locations practice sustainable agriculture and offer pick-your-own experiences and fully stocked farm stands (with curbside pickup now). At the Somis farm, pick juicy tangerines early in the year. Or wait for strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, which ripen in summer. In Moorpark, pick your own vegetables, such as squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, and more, depending on the season. While the popular Fall Harvest Festival is canceled this year, the Moorpark location will still have pumpkins for sale. 

 

5. Santa Barbara Blueberries and Restoration Oaks Ranch, Gaviota

santabarbarablueberries.com

Open for picking blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, May–November. Cost is $10 per pound.

Picking blueberries at Santa Barbara Blueberries

Ripe fruit at Santa Barbara Blueberries. | Photo by Ed Seaman / Santa Barbara Blueberries

This sustainable blueberry farm is part of a 1,000-acre ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley. Blueberry picking typically runs from mid-May to mid-June. You can pick raspberries and blackberries from early August until the first frost (which was in November in 2019). At the farm store, you’ll find food and other products, including honey, jam, candles, and soap, along with house-made berry tarts. The ranch has worked with the Wild Farmlands Foundation in recent years to add educational hikes and tours. A popular new hike is October’s Wild Tarantula Trail, where visitors look for tarantula burrows and learn about spiders.

 

6. Willowbrook Apple Farm, Oak Glen

willowbrookapplefarm.com

Open for apple picking 10 a.m.–4 p.m. on weekends from Labor Day through October. $15 per bag.

A family makes cider in a hand-cranked press at Willowbrook Farm in Oak Glen, California

A family makes cider in a hand-cranked press at Willowbrook Farm. | Photo by Cheryl Swanson

Transform just-picked Stayman Winesap apples at this 1910 Oak Glen farm into apple cider using a hand-crank. (It takes 13 pounds of apples to press a half-gallon of cider.) Other apple varieties for picking including Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Sweet Sixteen, and Double Delicious. The farm also offers raspberry and blackberry picking September into October. Missed berry season? A few jars of preserves from the farm’s store will tide you over till next fall. 

 

A mother and writer, Tanvi Chheda is a die-hard farmers market and small-farm supporter. She contributes to Travel and Leisure and Ciao Bambino, among other publications.  

AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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