Discover farm life: Agri-tourism is alive and well in the heartland of Sonoma County. This popular brand of California travel comes in a variety of flavors — farm tours, produce picking, cooking classes, and more.
The experiences are designed to give visitors an inside look at what life is really like on the American farm. They are open to everyone; in many cases, they cost no more than $20 a person.
Small farms have turned to agri-tourism in recent years as a method of supplementing income and raising awareness about rural America. Depending on the farm, most of these experiences include destination history (many local farms are family owned), interactions with animals, and some form of tasting at the end.
The folks at Full House Farm invite visitors to experience “sustainable living from the inside out.” The farm life tour takes 90 minutes to two hours and it immerses visitors in the activities of a working farm.
Tours (reservations required) are offered at 10 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday from May through November, and also available off season, weather permitting. Tours are $20 for adults, $10 for children under 12, and free for farm lodging guests.
Interact with the horses, goats, and sheep, as well as tour the organic gardens that supply the farm with fresh vegetables — from artichokes to zucchini, and many more in between. Fresh herbs and fruits are also grown. Samples of foods made fresh on the farm are offered at the end of the tour, including goat cheese, cheese cake, and wine jams and jellies.
If simply touring isn’t enough, Full House Farm has three vacation rentals available—a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house, a cozy studio cottage, and a fifth-wheel trailer. Each includes a complimentary farm life tour, plus freshly collected organic eggs from the farm’s own hens, locally baked organic bread, and jams and jellies. The farm maintains two organic vegetable gardens for its guests, where you can harvest lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, carrots—whatever is ripe and available that day.
The fall farm tour at McClelland's Dairy in Petaluma is a 90-minute experience that begins with a history lesson in front of the farm’s original milking parlor. You’ll learn how the farm has been family-run since 1938. You’ll also learn how three generations of McClellands have run the operation.
Next, visitors walk through the nursery to meet some of the newest cows on the block. From there, guests tour a pasture or two, and learn about how the farm recycles water.
The tour concludes in the milking parlor itself. Guests get to watch cows being milked (the ranch’s 1,000-plus cows are milked for 20 of 24 hours daily); then visitors get to taste the farm’s signature product: European-style artisan organic butter.
“We want people to have a complete sense of what happens here,” said Jana McClelland, the third-generation McClelland to run the farm. “We hope to teach them something in the process.” Check their tour schedule for more details, including tour dates and prices.
Other local farms offer similar experiences; some are listed below. Sonoma County Farm Trails, the county’s organization devoted to agri-tourism, also sponsors a special weekend extravaganza (dubbed “Weekend Along Farm Trails”) once a year.
For 2016, the Weekend Along Farm Trails takes place Sept. 24 and 25.
Dry Creek Peach & Produce
2179 Yoakim Bridge Road
Full House Farm
1000 Sexton Road
Green String Farm
3571 Old Adobe Road
5566 Gravenstein Hwy. N
6475 Bodega Avenue
Oak Hill Farm of Sonoma, LLC
15101 Sonoma Highway
636 Gossage Avenue
Rose and Thorn
10050 Bodega Highway
Sonoma County Farm Trails
1830 Gravenstein Highway South
Tara Firma Farms
3796 I Street, Ext
651 Airport Blvd.