Sonoma County’s rich agricultural heritage is alive and well. Throughout the county, in all sorts of terrain, family farms and artisanal growers are creating agricultural products that reflect their own unique terroir.
And thanks to the county’s vibrant approach to agri-tourism, residents and visitors alike can enrich a beautiful country drive with adventurous and educational stops at local farms.
Depending on your choice, you and your family could pick produce, pet sheep and goats, milk a cow, learn how to irrigate a field, or take a cooking class. Some adventures are free, while others carry a fee that helps supplement the farm’s income.
It’s easy to plan your trip if you use the free and downloadable map and guide provided by the non-profit Sonoma County Farm Trails, devoted to keeping a strong bond between the grower and the eater (you!).
Member farms/producers of the organization are listed and described, along with days and times they’re open for visits, and other pertinent information. Some farm visits are only by appointment.
Maps are included for eight different geographic regions, allowing you to visit farms in a specific area — along the Russian River or the Pacific Coast, for example.
Take the 90-minute tour (reservations required) at Petaluma’s McClelland’s Dairy Farm and you’ll learn about the family-owned farm’s history (dating back to 1938), get to pet calves, tour a pasture, visit the milking parlor, and enjoy a sample of organic artisan butter.
Take a private tour of Lavender Bee Farm in Petaluma. It's chemical-free (no pesticides or chemical fertilizers) and host to more than 5,000 lavender plants and multiple beehives. The farm store offers gourmet honey, lavender bouquets, sachets, hydrosols, essential oils, linens, and other gift items. (Advance reservations are required to take a private tour or to visit the farm store.)
Taste estate wines, homegrown olive oil, just-baked bread, and fresh and pickled vegetables at Preston Farm and Winery in Dry Creek Valley north of Healdsburg. Operated by the Preston family for 45 years, this 125-acre organic and biodynamic property is nestled between a meandering salmon-spawning stream and a sleepy stretch of former wagon trail leading to town. It features a tasting room, farm store, and bakery with a wood-fired oven. Allow 60 to 90 minutes for the walking farm tour and tasting ($30), available Tuesday to Saturday.
Tour the cheese plant, milking parlor, and barns, and then taste the cheese on the traditional farm tour at Achadinha Cheese Company outside Petaluma. This family-run, 230-acre ranch is home to roughly 250 goats and 60 cows, as well as pigs, sheep, horses, chickens, dogs, cats, and ducks.
Sebastopol’s Redwood Hill Farm-Capracopia — a goat dairy farm — offers farm tours (by advance reservation only). Cuddle a baby goat, learn how to milk a goat, and visit with these intelligent animals at this sustainable, Certified Humane farm, which also includes chickens, beehives, olive and fruit orchards, and more.
Tour the grounds of Petaluma’s rose-filled Garden Valley Ranch, producer of Garden Roses (grown totally outdoors). You’ll marvel over floral sights such as the 220-foot-long by 14-foot-wide display border, edged in local stone and containing roses, perennials, shrubs, and annuals arranged in color sequence as in the Gertrude Jekyll style of old. (Open spring to fall; closed in winter.)
You can also visit farms for produce in season. Buy peaches at Dry Creek Peach & Produce in the Dry Creek Valley, apples and pumpkins at Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol, and just about anything at Sonoma’s Oak Hill Farm, Petaluma’s Green String Farm, or Windsor’s Farm Stand at Tierra.
There are many, many more farm adventures awaiting you in Sonoma County. Have fun — and bon appétit!
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez