PAJARO VALLEY—Open Farm Tours returns this Saturday and Sunday to the greater Pajaro Valley, with eight local farms participating in two days of events.
Originally started in 2014 as the Corralitos Open Farm Tour, the event has continued to grow and add more farms from the surrounding regions. Its aim is to connect residents with farms and teach them about where and how their food is grown.
Karell and Phil Reader own Luz Del Valle Farm, a multi-generational farm in Pleasant Valley that has been growing apples since 1880. Karell Reader said they have been constant supporters of Open Farm Tours for years.
“OFT is when we get to showcase not only our wonderful apples, but our message and philosophy,” she said. “Our regular U-Pick days focus on customers … OFT has a real educational aspect.”
All 2021 farms are family-owned, implement sustainable agriculture practices and grow organically. This year’s event will focus on how these farms are adapting to the realities of climate change and other ongoing environmental and health challenges, in the wake of Covid-19.
“Our industrial food system has really separated us from our food,” said Penny Ellis, a founder and organizer of OFT. “Generations are growing up now without a lot of knowledge, unless they have immediate access to farms and gardens. We want to promote the importance of that… of learning to look at the earth as a living organism.”
Added Reader: “It’s part of our mission to share how important it is to farm responsibly and sustainably. To show people that even they could do it, in their backyard gardens.”
With the exception of Paicines Ranch in San Benito County, all farms on the tour are in Santa Cruz County within a 10-mile radius of each other. Guests are invited to come to meet the farmers, learn about local food production and take tours of the properties.
Each farm will have its own scheduled activities, including guided and self-guided tours, various demonstrations, wine tasting, U-picks, product sales, appetizers and more.
At Luz Del Valle, guests can enjoy a self-guided tour of the orchard and historic barn, fresh apple juice picking, a U-Pick and a visit with the farm’s resident Arabian horses.
“Our horses … they’ve become a highlight of our entire operation,” Reader said.
Similar to last year, all activities scheduled for 2021 will be for small groups that require online pre-registration and ticketing through Eventbrite. All proceeds will go directly to the farms.
A number of tours are already sold out, said Ellis, but some are still available—including Whisky Hill Farms, where people can tour a regenerative farm growing unique crops such as wasabi.
Tour activities are outdoors and socially distanced, however, all guests are requested to bring a mask.
Participating farms include Thomas Farm, Luz Del Valle Farm, Terra Sole Nursery, Paicines Ranch, Storrs Winery, Fruitlicious Farm, Live Earth Farm, and Whiskey Hill Farm.
In addition, OFT is scheduling a special 21+ tour on Monday. The Cannabis Farm Tour will take place at Bird Valley Organics and Lifted Organics Farms.
“Cannabis has become a pretty big agricultural presence in our community,” Ellis said. “We think it’s important to connect people with those farms as well.”