Pick-it-Yourself Farms

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Apple-picking excursion for kids

Sept 2009

Growing up in New England, we always went apple picking in the fall. I would love to take my children on an apple-picking excursion -- any recommendations for a farm/orchard that is within an hours drive of Oakland? I'd like to find a spot that is rural and simple - someplace where they send you out into the orchard with a few baskets and that's it. I'd like to avoid places that are really commercialized or combined with Halloween activities. Eve

We just went apple-picking last weekend and found a spot that fits almost all your criteria! The place is called Gabriel Farms, and it is in Sebastopol (which is a bit more than an hour's drive, but not by much --- that's the only criterion it doesn't meet). The farm is completely low-key -- you get baskets and head out, unaccompanied and unrushed, to pick apples and pears, all organic. The kids loved it, and the tiny town of Graton is just two minutes down the road (and there are two nice restaurants right there, too). d

The past few years we've gone to Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol (http://gabrielfarm.com/portal/u-pick) - it's a family farm, organic, super-friendly and low-key. The farmer or his wife (often with kids or dog in tow) will give you a tour if you like, or hand you some crates and let you loose to explore the orchard. Email ahead to make sure they're home and still have apples left. If you go, make time to have lunch at the Willow Wood Cafe (http://willowwoodgraton.com/) - fresh, yummy and quirky. This year for variety we're going to try Chileno Valley Ranch (http://www.chilenobeef.com/upick.htm) in Petaluma - also sustainable and family-run, and friendly in my email exchange with them. I Also Have Fond Apple-Picking Memories as a Kid

Gabriel Farm, in Sebastopol, is terrific. You need to call to let them know you are coming, but it's very low key, organic, and the couple who own it are really nice folk. Another East Coaster who misses orchards

We just went apple picking this weekend. The nearest U-Pick farms are in Sebastopol, we went to Gabriel Farms. They are an organic family farm that comes to the Berkeley Farmers Market. I think their specialty is juices - check out their website, http://gabrielfarm.com/portal/web/guest/home. They have the best golden delicious apples and Shinseki asian pears! Then we drove the 16 miles out to Bodega Bay to catch the sunset and race the tides, very fun! You can also check out http://www.pickyourown.org/CA.htm for other U-pick farms in Northern CA or http://www.allaboutapples.com/orchard/ca03.htm for apple farms. If you want to make a day of it, you can also check out Apple Valley (just north of Sacramento) tons of varieties of apple farms. Happy apple picker

Berry Farm - pick your own cheaper than the store?

Jan 2009

Are there any farms within reasonable driving distance of the east bay where you can pick your own berries (any kind) and the price for the pick-your-own bulk is much cheaper than for berries in the supermarket? We're looking to bake pies etc. but the price of fresh or even frozen berries is too expensive to make this feasible. When I was growing up in New York we used to head to the farms every May to pick our own year's supply of berries for baking & freezing, wish we could do that out here too. Miss the berries

Phipps Ranch in Pescadero (south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1) is a great place to pick berries. While they do charge you an entrance fee, if you pick a lot you definitely save $$ because the price per pound is so much lower than in the store. We go every year and stock up. They have raspberries and strawberries, but they always seem to be picked over. We go for the ollalieberries (a West Coast blackberry) which are usually ripe around the second week of June. They also have a collection of exotic birds and a little grocery store with a wide variety of heirloom dried beans. Their website is http://www.phippscountry.com/. Jean

Check out www.farmtrails.org There is a list of farms in Sonoma County where you can pick your own fruit, vegetables, berries, etc. and cut down a Christmas tree (which we do every year). Have fun! farm lover

Apple picking birthday party for 9-year-olds?

Oct 2008

I'm planning a birthday party for a 9-year old in November, and I'm wondering if there are any u-pick apple places that have other activities (cider press, straw maze, who knows what else?) around that time. I've looked online but the information I'm looking for isn't presenting itself. I'm looking at the weekend before Thanksgiving. Any ideas very welcome! nancy

I hope someone has a lead for you, but I just looked into going apple picking last weekend and it seems like the season is over - ended in September this year. We usually go the first week in October and that's about the end of it. You can still find places with harvest activities and apples to buy, but not on the trees. I did get a lovely email reply to my inquiry from Rose Family Farm in Sebastopol (707-829-7111 / duneflwr [at] aol.com) offering some alternate activities for the kids, if you want to look into them. Chileno Valley Ranch (www.chilenobeef.com/upick.htm) also sounded good. Sonoma County Farm Trails (www.farmtrails.org) has some other options. Or if you just want generally outdoorsy and harvest activities, try Ardenwood Farm in Fremont -- lots of fun stuff for kids there. Fellow Apple Picker

You might find what you are looking for at Sonoma Farm Trails. http://www.farmtrails.org/ Happy Picking! LK

Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville is wonderful. They do have birthday party packages. Apple slush is amazing! Delicious fresh-made pies for $10. Lots of activities. Looks like apple picking is over. http://www.gizdich-ranch.com/ and http://www.yelp.com/biz/gizdich-ranch-watsonville Elaine

Where can we pick our own blueberries?

April 2008

My daughter is a big fan of Blueberries for Sal, and wants to pick some herself (she'd love to also follow a mama bear in the process, but we'll skip that part for now). Anyone picked blueberries anywhere in the greater Bay region? We live in Berkeley, but know it's not blueberry territory. Ideas? Michelle

Check the lisitings of Sonoma Farms at www.farmtrails.org I did not look through their brochure on line, but I am sure they have listings for where you can pick blueberries (and many other things...) Love Sonoma County

June 2007

Can anyone suggest a farm where one can pick their own blueberries (U-pick)? Organic and within an hour of Berkeley would be even better, but not absolutely necessary. I haven't been able to find anything specific on the web or parents.berkeley.edu. Thanks, David

I don't know an exact place, but a few websites to explore could be www.caff.org (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) and www.farmtrails.org (sonoma county farm trails). I have brochures from both of these groups. love u-pick

The only u-pick blueberry farms that I know of are up north in Humbolt County. http://www.pickyourown.org/CAnorth.htm It may be that blueberries don't grow well further south for commercial purposes. Laurey

Try the Harvest Time in Brentwood website...not sure if they have blueberries? http://www.harvest4you.com/ mo

Where to go apple picking with a toddler?

Oct 2006

Does anyone know of a place to go apple picking with a toddler? We live in Berkeley but would be willing to do some driving. Thanks so much! - Deb

Greetings, With a toddler it might be good not to head too far away, especially since the actual apple-picking part of the day will be short (unless you are in the market for a ton of apples....) We go to Brentwood, north of Livermore on Vasco Road. It's relatively close by and a pretty drive once you get on Vasco Road (but beware of speed traps). Enjoy! farm girl

On a recent vacation to Cazadero, my mom and I wanted to take my 3-year-old daughter apple-picking. I called a few places listed in the Sonoma Farm Trails guide and ended up choosing Gabriel Farm, an organic farm near Sebastapol. It was definitely the highlight of the vacation for my daughter. You have to make an appointment and you are expected to spend a certain amount ($20, I think, which isn't hard to do at $2/lb. for apples). We spent about $50 on apples, asian pears, juice and preserves. It was so worth it! One of the owners, Torrey, gave us a tour of the farm and his new solar panels (my mom loved this part), and told us how to pick the apples. He probably spent a good 45 minutes walking around and talking with us. Then he left us on our own to do the picking. We were also allowed to pick a few grapes and berries to taste. My daughter talks about this trip constantly, a month or so later, and was so proud to eat the apples and take them to school to show her friends. She can't wait to go back! Check out their website at http://www.farmtrails.org/gabriel/ You can also visit Torrey at the Berkeley Farmers Market. He is great. You can search for other upick farms on the Sonoma Farm Trails website. Have fun! Noel

make a day of it to Santa Cruz and environs and try http://www.gizdich-ranch.com We decided to just buy already picked apples rather than pick- yourself, but liked the place and the apples are YUMMY! spreading the apple butter!

Funny you should ask! We just made plans to go pick apples next week at the organic Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol. See http://www.gabrielfarm.com/index_files/Visiting.htm for more info (page sometimes takes a while to load). You can email them (torrey[at]gabrielfarm.com) to set up a time to come visit. JP

Try the Old Apple Orchard in Pinole. When my sons were younger our playgroup went every fall. It's small, enclosed, and has lots of trees with low branches accessible to toddlers lizengan

U-Pick Apple Farm

Sept 2004

Every year, my little family and I try to find a U-pick Farm where we can pick apples, and every year so far we have struck out. We've either missed apple picking season, like last year when we drove all the way out to Brentwood only to find that the farm closed down several weeks prior, or can't find one where you can pick the apples. I would love some recommendations from folks who have done apple picking- where you went, how much it costs, and if you felt like it was an appropriate family activity (we have a 5 year old). Also, have we already missed aplle picking season again? We would also welcome some suggestions for places to go where we could purchase a box of already picked fresh apples. Thanks for your recommendations! Jessica

Check out http://www.harvest4you.com/

This is a list of u-pick growers in Brentwood, including phone numbers, addresses, hours, and crops grown. It's always a good idea to call before you go so you're not disappointed :)

Another great place to pick apples is Sebastopol, for their famous Gravensteins! Yum! I know the number of growers has declined in recent years but also check out http://www.pickyourown.org/CA.htm for a listing of growers by county.

And your 5 year old will LOVE IT! My then 3-year-old thought it was the best thing! Bring your camera.

I don't know of a U-Pick-It apple farm, but I do know a great place to get a box of fresh apples. Walker Apples, 10955 Upp Road, Sebastopol, Phone: 707-823-4310. Open: Aug 1-Nov 15 Daily 10-5. It is a real working apple farm, not very scenic but they have lots of different varieties, you can sample them all and get a box of some of everything you like. We always combine it with a trip to our favorite pumpkin patch (which is pick it yourself) nearby -- sorry, every year we find it but I have no idea how to direct someone else there -- and a visit to Screamin' Mimi's ice cream in downtown Sebastapol.
Looking forward to this year's trip

Apple Hill has all the apples (both u-pick and pre-picked) and apple stuff you could ever want. It's about 2-2 1/2 hours from the Bay Area, about 40 miles east of Sacramento off of Highway 50. See http://www.applehill.com/

If you are willing to drive about an hour and a half there is a great little pick it yourself farm called the Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville. They are super nice, they like kids!! and they have a cafe with terrific pie availible. We go there several times a year when visiting in the area. They also do strawberry picking in the summer. I believe apple season goes to the end of September, but if you miss it they usually have pre-picked fruit for sale as well as fresh apple juice. http://www.gizdichranch.com/

You can search Sonoma County at http://www.farmtrails.org/. There are several U-pick apple farms listed. If you find a good one, please post a recommendation on BPN!

Organic Strawberries in Bulk

April 2004

I would like to buy reasonably priced organic strawberries in bulk in season for strawberry jam and for freezing. Any recommendations of specific farms in the delta (or elsewhere) with great strawberries and good prices would be appreciated. Laura

Our CSA, Eatwell Farm invites people to come pick organic strawberries at their farm. Give them a call. http://www.eatwell.com/ Sarah

When we make strawberry jam we go first to an organic strawberry farm, Swanton Berry Farm, located on the coast north of Santa Cruz. It's mostly ''pick yourself'' but they sometimes sell large flats too. Delicious! See http://www.swantonberry.com/ . Elizabeth

Swanton Berry Farm close to Davenport has wonderful organic strawberries. They'll pick them Saturday morning and deliver them to the Farmer's Mkt for you. They have a website for ordering. I honestly don't know how the prices compare, but the flavor and quality are excellent. Burr

U-Pick Strawberries & Other Berries

April 2003

Where can we go to have a fabulous berry-picking experience? Looking for a short day trip -- wondering where a couple of kids and their parents can pick strawberries in particular but other berries, too. We checked the website and already know about Brentwood but haven't found u-pick berry places there. Someone also told us to look around in Sonoma County, but a Google search isn't turning up much info. Do you have any great tips for specific places to go? Thanks! Brenda

Here's a place that was recommended to me by a friend. Go to the main site and click on Summerfield Berry Farm. http://www.applehill.com/site/guides.html Elaine

I just spoke with the folks at Phipps Ranch in Pescadero, about 90 minutes from Berkeley, off Hwy. 1 (near Half Moon Bay). Sounds like the perfect pickin' place. Strawberries should be ready mid-May and they are open 7 days a week. Check out http://www.phippscountry.com/berries.htm Have fun! Sooz

Check out Brentwood--between Antioch and Livermore. Here's a good link to a website detailing all their farms selling pre- picked and u-pick produce: http://www.harvest4u.com/

I've picked strawberries at some of the farms in the past but the list on harvest4u.com just shows strawberries that are pre- picked. I would just call a few of the farms and see if they're selling u-pick strawberries. And if you're into boysenberries a number of farms offer u-pick boysenberries. Such a fun thing to do with your kids! Christina

A very nice place to pick olallieberries (they are like huge blackberries) is CoastWays Ranch, which is on highway 1 south of Half Moon Bay. If you know where the elepahnt seal preserve is at Ano Neuvo, it's practically right across the street from there. Really nice picking with a view of the ocean. Their website: http://www.well.com/user/dmsml/coastways/index.html Ginger

Fruit picking with a toddler

April 2003

Can people recommend local places to take a now 18 month old fruit picking this summer? I guess we're looking for a ''U-Pick'' that's a reasonable driving distance from Berkeley -- picking that's not too thorny or high for a little one (strawberries?) -- organic or clean would be a plus. Thanks for any suggestions.

Check out Brentwood--between Antioch and Livermore. Here's a good link to a website detailing all their farms selling pre- picked and u-pick produce: http://www.harvest4u.com/ Christina

We've been to Ardenwood Farm in Fremont and had a wonderful time. Last fall we picked indian corn to decorate the house and popcorn to eat. We are still popping it and loving it. Our son had a blast.

The farm is historic and organic. As different crops mature, they have picking sessions. In addition, they have a lot of historic activities that are fun for the whole family. their focus is on family education, so they accomodate all ages very well. They have lovely picnic areas and good facilities for diaper changing, etc.

The farm is located right at the corner of 880 and the turn-off for the Dumbarton Bridge. Check out their website.

http://www.fremont.gov/Recreation/ArdenwoodPark/default.htm Karen

You Pick Orchards?

Does anyone know of any You Pick Orchards around here? Thanks!

I go to Brentwood to pick. You can get a map from them by writing to Harvest Time, P.O. Box O, Brentwood, CA 94513

Here's a website that lists u-pick farms, farm stands, farmers markets, and other farmer-direct produce in California: http://www.caff.org/farmfresh/ Charis

Check out the UPICK farmers' website: www.harvest4u.com Dashka

This looked like a great place to go in Brentwood, but not organic. You could call and ask about pesticide use: www.brentwoodfruit.com

Organic Pick-it-Yourself

I have a very special childhood memory of me and my family fruit picking at Brentwood in the summer. We use to eat the fruits straight off the tree. We never waited to wash them first. That was before we all became aware of harmful pesticides and other agriculture chemicals. Now that I am an adult, I try to be more earth concious and organic. Can I share my childhood experience with my kids? Is there a place I can take my children fruit picking? Does such a place exist? Nory

Here are some organic farm sites I found on the web for brentwood. You could call and find out if they do U-Pick or who does.