Let kids taste, smell, pet, plant, and have a blast at family-run farms and markets on a rambling tour of the Gold Country and Central Valley.
A growing number of small and often family-run farms are opening their barn doors to visitors—presenting wonderful experiences for kids to see and understand where their food comes from, and how much work is involved. Plus you often can buy ultra-fresh produce, eggs, herbs, and other farm products directly from the source. Remember: These are working farms, so public visiting times and access can change with the seasons. Some farms operate on a seasonal schedule, so call or email before starting your trip.
Length: 2 days
Day 1: Davis to Jackson
Directions: These farms are on secondary roads (part of their charm), so check their websites or call for directions before starting out in Davis.
Davis. Begin your trip by meeting the local farmers who set up stalls, come rain or shine, at this town’s remarkable farmers’ market (Sat. year-round; Wed. afternoon in winter). Kids can sample picked-the-day-before organic produce—then say thank you to the farmers who grew it.
Guinda. A huge bounty of organic vegetables, herbs, fruit and nut trees, and flowers grows at 200-acre Full Belly Farm . The farm’s very popular annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival , held in October, offers kids’ activities, hands-on workshops, music, terrific food, and good times for all.
Placerville. Fudge Factory Farm , nestled in apple and berry orchards, holds lively build-a-(chocolate)-bunny and other workshops, and sells over 75 flavors of fudge and other treats.
Camino. Here in the heart of California’s Apple Hill region, the Gold Country foothills are dotted with orchards, Christmas tree farms, and vineyards open to visitors. Check Apple Hill Growers Association for over 50 locations.
Jackson. Snuggle up to a woolly sheep, learn why bees are important to farmers, and see how to raise healthy hens at Butte Mountain Organic Farm . Visit in spring and you might see just-born lambs too.
Spend the night in Jackson.
Day 2: Jackson to Wilton
Jackson. Pick a sunflower bouquet, taste heirloom tomatoes, smell fresh herbs, and sample a rainbow carrot at Debi’s Mother Earth (11311 New York Ranch Rd.; 209/223-3902).
Ione. Hang out with outrageously cute alpacas, a domesticated species from South America that’s raised for its remarkably soft fleece, at Camanche Ranch Alpacas .
Escalon. Tap into a wealth of Central Valley farms and ranches through Local Choices , which connects farmers and the public throughout the region. Among the choices is Lorina’s Edible Garden, where kids can visit with farm critters and try their hand at planting herbs.Wilton. Nestled along the banks of the Cosumnes River, Fog Willow Farms feels remarkably rural considering it’s less than an hour south of Sacramento. Children will enjoy loads of special activities, including the Science Farm in spring and the ultimate pumpkin farm experience in the fall.