With our modern emphasis on frozen Frankenstein food, it can be easy to forget that real food comes from the land, not a box.
That's not the case in sunny California, though. The Golden State's idyllic farms and orchards are bursting with fresh, delicious produce year-round -- especially in its picturesque Central Valley region.
Whether you want to pick fresh apples, see how cheese is made, or wind your way through a corn maze, California has plenty of back-to-nature trips that will serve as a quick reminder of where real food comes from. We've rounded up a list of six great spots where you can indulge your taste buds -- and maybe even learn something along the way.
Boa Vista Orchards
This charming family farm in Apple Hill is home to an apple barn, a bakery, and picnic grounds that are open every day of the year. In addition to fresh produce like apples, pears, peaches, and plums, it also holds daily wine tastings for the adults to enjoy.
Max's Miracle Ranch
When you pick your own winter kale, spring cherries or fall pumpkins at Max’s Miracle Ranch, you’re also supporting a great cause. The Northern Californian ranch doubles as a retreat for kids with life-threatening illnesses. It’s also home to plenty of fun family-friendly features, including train rides, a petting zoo and pony rides.
Dell'Osso Family Farms
This is about as close to an amusement park as a farm can get. The family farm is located about an hour from San Francisco, and it boasts a number of farm-themed attractions ranging from a corn maze to a bucking pumpkin to tractor rides. Halloween is the prime time to visit, thanks to its famous haunted house and pumpkin patch.
You can take a hands-on tour of this goat farm, where you’ll see everything from the goat nursery to how the goat’s milk is turned into delicious cheeses. After your tour, you can indulge in some of those fine cheeses, including ricotta, feta, chevre, and fromage blanc at The Cheese Shop. Nature, goats, and cheese; can you ask for anything more in life?
Home Grown Cellars
If you’ve grown tired of the usual apple orchards and berry farms, here’s a new farm experience for you: a pomegranate farm! The good folks at Home Grown Cellars have been growing pomegranates in the Central Valley area for decades, and their farm has grown to include a market and a butterfly conservatory. Get back to nature in a whole new way with this fun and diverse farming experience.
If you want to mix a fun history lesson into your family getaway, this working orchard in Oak Glen is the place to do it at. Riley's Farm offers living history adventures on everything from colonial farm life to the Civil War to the gold rush. The educational portion of your visit doesn't have to end there; the farm is also home to a tavern modelled after an 18th Century Public House. You can follow up your history lesson by picking your own in-season produce, including watermelons, pumpkins, strawberries and blackberries.
This popular farm in Orange County is known for its guided strawberry tours, which are available from March - June. Visitors get to ride a tractor-pulled wagon as they learn about how the delicious berries are grown. It’s a perfect learning opportunity for the kids -- plus you get to take home a basket of fresh fruit. The farm also offers seasonal watermelon tours and a working pumpkin patch.