Tag Archives: Farms

Heed the Call of the Pumpkin: Great Bay Area Pumpkin Farms

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Few people can resist the delights offered by a pumpkin farm. They’re wonderful places for urban and suburban families to slow down just enough to feel the turning of the year and maybe try some harvest or other activities from times past. And, of course, there are the pumpkins themselves — jolly orbs that lay in profusion among pastures until you, the visitor, pick the most perfect among them to take home.

With Halloween almost upon us, most pumpkin farms have gone into high gear, with lots of activities over longer hours, and a host of pumpkins still available for the picking. Included in this listing are working farms and special pumpkin patches in the North, East and South Bays.

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North Bay

Peterson’s Pumpkins and Dried Flowers, Petaluma

This working farm opens to the public for Halloween. Families may visit on weekends or after 2 on weekdays. In addition to two large, natural pumpkin fields, Peterson’s has lots of animals to feed and pet, including chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, cows, ponies, rabbits, pigs, calves, and a very big but gentle bull known as Wooly Monster. There are also fresh vegetables, flowers, free-range eggs, and an observational bee hive, all in a very intimate farm setting.

See the Peterson’s web site for directions and more information.

Peter Pumpkin Patch, Petaluma

This large, beautifully situated pumpkin farm in the Chileno Valley is also the home of Spring Hill Jersey Cheese. Visitors can milk a cow or dig for potatoes in a potato field, in addition to buying some of the best homemade ice cream around (pumpkin and vanilla) and specialty  farmstead cheeses.

See the Peter Pumpkin Patch web site for directions and more information.

Adobe Pumpkin and Flower Farm

This 30-acre farm has thousands of pumpkins and gourds for the picking, along with U-cut zinnias and sunflowers, and vegetables. Adobe also has a great corn maze, a hay ride, a haunted barn, a jump house, animals, crafts, and food and live entertainment on weekends.

See the Adobe Farms web site for directions and more information.

Nicasio Valley Farms, Nicasio

Along with a large, picturesque pumpkin field, Nicasio Valley Farms offers U-pick strawberries, lots of gourds, and a farmstand featuring a complete array of fresh organic vegetables, as well as eggs, breads and cheeses. There is a hay ride, a hay maze and a jump house.

Call Nicasio Valley Farms at (415) 662-9100 for directions and more information.

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East Bay

Smith Family Farm, Brentwood

Smith Family Farm has been in the same family for three generations and offers lots of great old-time activities on its large farm. There’s a leisurely tractor-pulled hay ride out to the pumpkin field, a corn maze, a hay maze, displays of antique farm equipment, live entertainment in a barn, a host of animals, and lots of fresh U-pick produce. The farm offers lots of places to picnic and play in a large, varied ranch setting.

See the Smith Valley Farm web site for directions and more information.

Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm, Clayton

Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm, at the base of Mount Diablo, features a large variety of pumpkins and squash in all shapes and even colors. This working farm offers lots of fun activities for all ages, including a trackless train, a playland featuring old-fashioned games, and plenty of farm animals. The farm represents a part of the area’s rural past that is largely disappearing.

See the Clayton Valley Farm web site for directions and more information.

Joan’s Farm and Pumpkin Patch, Livermore

This large, pretty working farm offers a taste of the Old West: There’s an Old West town, gold panning, antique farm equipment, a museum, and more. There’s also a large corn maze, hay rides, farm animals, and a farmstand with fresh produce for sale.

See the Joan’s Farm web site for directions and more information.

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South Bay

Half Moon Bay bills itself as the “Pumpkin Capitol of the World” for good reason. Many people know about its yearly Art and Pumpkin Festival, which occurs each year in mid-October. Less well-known is the bounty of area farms, many of which have been in families for generations, along Highways 1 and 92.

Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

This delightful pumpkin patch offers an extremely large variety of pumpkins, all grown on-site. This working farm also features a hay pyramid, scarecrows, play areas, a Native American tipi, cornrows, U-pick sunflowers, and an antique John Deere tractor. The farm is wheelchair-accessible.

See the Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm web site for directions and more information.

Arata’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Open since 1932, Arata’s is one of the oldest working pumpkin farms in the Bay Area. In addition to pumpkins, enjoy pony rides, animals, a hay ride, and a huge hay maze — clearly a labor of love — constructed out of 10,000 bales of hay.

See the Arata’s Pumpkin Farm web site for directions and more information.

Little Creek Ranch Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Just up the road from Arata’s, Little Creek is a delightful family farm and pumpkin patch suitable for very young children. Pumpkins lay far apart on flat ground, so there are no vines to trip over. The entire pumpkin area is surrounded by low hay bales. There is a play structure and pony rides, along with other animals.

Call Little Creek Ranch at  (650) 726-2765 for directions and more information.

Pastorino Farms, Half Moon Bay

Pastorino Farms dates from the 30s and is known today for its huge assortment of pumpkins, along with its big orange-and-black decorated barn. Pastorino offers train rides around a small track, a jump house, pony rides, and a petting zoo. Hand-made signs that identify the many different types of pumpkins, some of them quite unusual. Also nice is the farm’s large selection of Halloween decorations and kitchen wares.

See the Pastorino Farms web site for directions and more information.

Lemos Farm, Half Moon Bay

A working farm since 1942, this popular, charming spot offers lots of activities for all ages, especially young children. In addition to a good selection of pumpkins, Lemos Farm features pony rides, hay rides, a hay maze, a train for small children, a toddler-oriented play zone, haunted houses for older and younger children, and animals you can feed and pet. Lemos Farm retains a great deal of charm from the South Bay’s rural past.

See the Lemos Farm web site for directions and more information.

Have fun!

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Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Sonoma County Farm Trails Weekend

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As if we needed another excuse to get out and enjoy early Fall, September 26-27 is Weekend Along Farm Trails in Sonoma.

Sonoma County Farm Trails is a wonderful group. For 36 years, it has supported sustainable agriculture and provided education and tons of fun, with maps to and information about participating farms that are open to visitors. My family has visited farms for years, in all seasons — picking berries, apples, pumpkins, and zinnias; buying fresh vegetables, honey and eggs; feeding llamas, rabbits, chickens and cows; even making butter and milking cows, the last of which visitors can do at McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma. Wineries, plant nurseries and restaurants are also on the tour.

We saw this newborn calf on one of our farm visits:

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It’s just enjoyable to drive along the farm roads from one farm to another. Often, farms are closed to visitors during a typical day, or are only open by appointment. So it’s especially fun when they throw the gates open on Farm Trails Weekend, and you can really go into the many different farms and experience feeding animals, learning about the harvest, meeting farmers, participating in chores, and otherwise enjoying a taste of farm life. You can even get a jump on selecting a pumpkin. Some farms offer hay rides and other activities.

See the Weekend Along Farm Trails site to map your route and plan your visit. You’ll probably want to visit farms that are clustered in one or two areas and plan about an hour per farm visit, or 3-5 farms in a day. Have fun!

(If your area has a similar farm day, let us know.)

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Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Slow News Day: Attend a “Time For Lunch” Eat-In

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Slow Food USA has been busy on its Time for Lunch campaign, which advocates for healthy, local, quality food to be served in our nation’s schools, as an investment in children’s health and nutrition education, as well as in green jobs and reduced waste.

On Monday, Labor Day, Slow Food has planned a National Day of Action, and participating couldn’t simpler. All around the country — in picnic spots, parks, restaurants, farms, and backyards — people will be participating in Eat-Ins. Eat-Ins are simply potluck gatherings of those who wish to slow down, enjoy one another’s company and good food, and at the same time support improving the quality of food in our schools. More than 300 Eat-Ins are in the works, in all regions of the U.S. Some have arranged to have speakers from the Slow Food Movement and elected officials; others will offer chef demonstrations and games.

Slow Food and other advocacy groups hope to use the day to bring more attention to the issues, as the group is lobbying Congress for change, coinciding with the fact that the Child Nutrition Act is due for re-authorization this month.

Best, yet, who wouldn’t like a moment to embrace the end of summer vacations and reconnect with those around us for a couple of hours in the late afternoon — over food. Eat-ins offer the perfect combination of community, activism and food. And they have struck a chord. This article in The Atlantic points out that they are attracting tons of folks who have not previously been involved with the Slow Food Movement.

I’ll be at the Eat-In in Mill Valley’s Boyle Park, which will run from 3-5 pm. Representative Lynn Woolsey is expected to appear, as is Green Gulch gardener Wendy Johnson, who will be leading an educational “Plant In”.

The Slow Food site makes it easy to find an Eat-In near you.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Be a Farmer for a Day at McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma

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When Anna was small, she used to love both to go for drives and to look at cows. The 45-minute drive from our house to McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma also happened to provide the perfect mid-day nap time. So it was that we took plenty of drives to McClelland’s, to watch the cows being milked in the dairy barn.

Now you can do this, too, even without the nap.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a farmer, or if you just want to spend the day on a pretty farm, enjoying farm life,  McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma is offering families and others that chance, with a special day filled with activities at their family dairy farm.

Participants will start with morning chores — feeding the baby calves from bottles in the nursery, mixing grain for the “mama” cows, and then milking cows, with one-on-one instruction from the farmers. You can sign up for a guided tour, where you’ll learn the history of the multi-generation family farm as well as more about the nursery and cow-milking barn. You can also experience making your own butter from milk.

There are lunches for sale, or bring your own and picnic at the farm.

McClelland’s “From She to Thee Farm Days” will take place Sat.-Sun., September 5-6 and September 26-27.

For more info about events, pricing, and the farm, see: The McClelland’s Dairy Farm web site.

Photo by Keith Weller

Funding Sought for Independent Film about Pug’s Leap Farm

Just last week, I breathlessly reviewed Pug’s Leap’s Farms’ outstanding goat cheeses, the Pavé and the Petit Marcel. Pug’s Leap, founded by ex-San Franciscans Eric Smith and Pascal Destandau, is notably dedicated to slow food and sustainable practices. And did I mention that their cheese is out of this world? You really can taste the careful hand-crafting.

Wonderfully, filmmaker Alexandra Austin has also discovered Pug’s Leap, and she is in the process of creating a documentary about Eric and Pascal’s move from corporate San Francisco to their rural Sonoma goat farm. The film is called “Leap of Faith”. Woven throughout the mens’ personal story are the issues of slow food, small farms, and sustainable businesses. John Raymond (Raymond & Co. Cheesemongers) and others are interviewed in the film.

“Leap of Faith” is, at heart, the story of finding meaning in one’s life, something that seems to drive many to the land and to living locally.

Filming is completed, as is some of post-production but, as we know, filmmaking is an expensive endeavor, and more funding is needed to get the job done. There have been many in-kind donations and deferrals from musicians and editors because so many people believe in this project. Alexandra is hoping to finish production in time for a pre-set premier on September 19.

You can see a clip of this wonderful film-in-progress and learn more about it here.

Contributions to the film are tax-deductible and no donation is too small. In addition to creating “Leap of Faith”, the filmmakers are working with the Farm to Consumer Foundation and plan to use the film to raise awareness of Congress’ over-regulation of small farms like Pug’s Leap.

I wish Alexandra all success in funding, completing and distributing “Leap of Faith”. I want to see it at film festivals!

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Photo: Susan Sachs Lipman

Pavé is topmost, and the Petit Marcel is at the bottom.

Slow News Day: Vermont’s First IHOP to Serve Real VT Maple Syrup

When International House of Pancakes finally opened a franchise in Vermont (the 50th state to get an IHOP), its General Manager, Sam Handy, Jr., successfully petitioned the franchisor to allow the South Burlington shop to serve real maple syrup, instead of the corn syrup blend that is served at the other approximately 1,400 IHOPs in North America. Handy is quoted in the New York Times as saying, “(Vermont is) a small state, and buying local is important.” He also wants to explore buying eggs and dairy items from local farmers.

So, it seems that fast food, in Vermont anyway, just inched a tiny bit slower.

Not to be outdone, New York Senator Chuck Schumer recently proposed to IHOP CEO Julie Stewart that New York State’s IHOPs similarly wean themselves off their mass-produced toppings and onto maple syrup made in New York. This is not the senator’s first foray into the maple. Last year, he introduced legislation designed to — wait for it — tap into his state’s underused maples by providing incentives to landowners for producing syrup. More information on New York’s maple situation is here.

I love maple syrup, and one in particular, which we have been getting delivered (a luxury) since trying it and many like it on a delightful road trip through New England five summers ago. That syrup is from Sugarbush Farm, in Woodstock, VT, where we got to touch the actual maple trees and learn about the entire tapping and production process. We also learned that we generally prefer the robust Grade A dark amber syrup to the lighter Grade A medium amber, or the even lighter “fancy” syrups.

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Lucky me. My daughter and her friend whipped up some French toast for themselves and for me this weekend. We all agreed that it turned out picture-perfect, especially topped with Sugarbush maple syrup and a helping of super-sweet Delta Blue organic blueberries from Stockton, CA., the closest-grown berries we could find.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman