Agri-tourism, Farm Tours Offered Throughout Sonoma County
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 stays, 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 traditional farm tour at McClelland's Dairy just east of 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, walk through the nursery to meet some of the newest cows on the block. From there, tour a pasture or two, and learn about how the farm recycles water.
The tour concludes in the milking parlor itself, where you can watch cows being milked (the ranch's 1,000-plus cows are milked for 20 of 24 hours daily). Then, taste the farm's signature product: European-style artisan organic butter. Private tours are available year-round; public tours are offered in October, in connection with the farm's Pumpkin Patch.
In good spring weather, Sebastopol's Redwood Hill Farm - Capracopia — a goat dairy — offers full farm tours guided by one of its family members, "kid cuddle days" that focus on the adorable baby goats, and personalized private tours arranged to work with your schedule. Meet the goats, cuddle baby goats, learn how to milk a goat, and experience sustainable farming first-hand, from the tracking solar array and rainwater catchment tanks to the pioneering use of tagasaste, an innovative goat fodder crop. This Certified Humane farm also includes chickens, beehives, olive and fruit orchards, and more.
Both the full farm tours and kid cuddles days start at 11 a.m. and last until 2 p.m. Bring a picnic to enjoy in the orchard. The farm market stand offers award-winning Redwood Hill Farm goat cheese, seasonal fruit, and fresh flowers, as well as skin-nourishing goat milk soap made with fresh goat milk and Capracopia Olive Oil produced on the farm. (Note: No pets are allowed on the farm.) Reservations required.
In the rolling hills about four miles southwest of downtown Petaluma, the Achadinha Cheese Co. offers 90-minute farm tours and cheese making classes. Achadinha is a family-operated ranch where they milk the cows and goats and then make their own farmstead cheeses, along with raising beef cows, pigs, sheep, horses, and chickens.
Also south of Petaluma's downtown area, Tara Firma Farms produces grass-fed beef and pastured poultry and pork, and offers free visitor tours on Saturdays and Sundays. You'll witness a 'fully operational example of what sustainable farming looks like.' Its farm store is open daily.
The 140-acre Green String Farm east of Petaluma has long been an influential player in sustainable farming, focusing on assisting natural processes that help grow healthy fruits and vegetables. The Green String Institute, founded in 2000, offers a certification program that promotes sustainable practices. The farm's store is open daily, year-round; in addition to whatever delicious fruits and vegetables are in season, it always offers fresh eggs (you can walk over and see the chickens who laid them), preserves, organic honey, and Red Bluff beef and pork.
Located in northern Sonoma County in the Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg, Dry Creek Peach & Produce is a small, family-run farm that prides itself on producing some of the best organic peaches in the world. All its fruit is organically grown, tree-ripened, hand picked, and hand packed. Its farm stand is open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon from July to mid-September (call ahead to confirm store hours). They grow a variety of peaches, as well as nectarines, plums, and pluots, and offer organic peach jam.
Of course, the places mentioned above are just a few of the Sonoma County farms that welcome visitors. For more than 40 years, members of Sonoma County Farm Trails have opened their farms and ranches to the public. The group sponsors a number of agriculture-related events each year. And all year long you can follow a Farm Trails map to experience life on the farm.
For more ideas about how to experience Sonoma County's agricultural abundance, read Sonoma County's Farmers Markets, The California Cheese Trail in Sonoma County, and Gravenstein Apples - Sonoma's Other World-Famous Crop.