October 13, 2014 – There is no better time of year than Indian Summer to enjoy the warm sunshine, golden light, vibrant colors and abundance of the harvest around the Monterey Bay. Every weekend fills up with fun ways to enjoy the season, and if you are like me, can present some hard decisions. But there’s no question what I’ll be doing on November 1st: the brand-new Corralitos Open Farm Tour.
This first annual event is being put together by a group of women who, according to one of the organizers, long-time gardener Cynthia Jordan, were “up-in-arms about what was happening to our food system.”
“It’s not a coincidence that we are all mothers and grandmothers,” she explains. “We look at this event as a campaign to make sure our grandchildren know healthy eating and healthy living. As we’ve moved through the months of planning, the ‘dream team’ has been joined by the Corralitos community of farmers, businesses, adults and children—all working together to make this event happen.”
The free self-guided tour features seven different Corralitos farms, open to the public from 11am to 4pm. From apples to pumpkins to chickens to sprouts, these farms will offer a glimpse of the true ins and outs of farm work. All are within a ten-mile radius, making for an easy and efficient route if you choose to visit all seven or even just one. Download a map of the self-guided tour here.
You may recognize some of the names as local farmers’ market favorites—like Live Earth, Prevedelli or Lonely Mountain—but there will be some hidden gems as well. Small family farms like Catalyst and Corralitos Creek (owned by Jordan’s brother-in-law) will be open to the pubic for this tour only. Many of the farms will have fresh produce, plant starts or canned goods available for sale onsite to take home.
But even if you can’t rally for the self-guided tour, be sure to budget plenty of time to hang out at the central Market Place, which will be assembled in downtown Corralitos at the Women’s Club and Padres Hall, 33 & 35 Brown’s Valley Rd.
A farm-to-table BBQ lunch will be available, utilizing much of the Corralitos bounty you may see en route, as well as the famous Corralitos market sausages. Live music, craft activities and exhibitors, a farmers’ market, petting zoo and kid friendly fun will be happening all day long.
The Market Place also aims to be an educational venue, with live demonstrations to provide expert guidance on farm skills. Learn all about fermentation with Wayne Miller at 11:30am or how to can tomatoes with master homesteader, beekeeper and Santa Cruz County fair winner Karla DeLong at 1pm.
Fittingly, some of the knowledge on offer will be edible, in the form of a free Children’s Salad Bar made up of donated local produce for kids up to 10 years old. And that is really the key here, because if our kids can understand where food comes from, and see it being grown, they will work to keep it there for the future.
For the last year, organizer Jordan has been working on a business plan for a non-profit she calls the Monterey Bay Farm and Food Hub. Her research brought to light for her some scary realities concerning the future of the small farm, and its huge importance in our food system.
“Small farms are the pebbles in the food pond,” she says. “They have a ripple effect that touches every critical aspect of our life. The growing of food impacts our nutritional health, the health of the environment, the creation of jobs, and the quality of life in the communities supporting the small farms.”
When asked about the origins of the Tour, Jordan explains that the bigger issue “was how to rally local communities to save small farms. People respond to crisis when they feel a personal connection to the problem. The answer was: give folks access to local small farms. Let them see first-hand the impact small farms have on the quality of life. People would be compelled to come to the aid of the small farm. And so the Corralitos Open Farm Tour was born.
The Tour tagline, “Connecting Farms, Food and Families,” gets to the whole point of this event, with each element on tap for the day leading back to this mission, meant to be free and accessible to all.
“The goal of the Corralitos Open Farm Tour is to get families out to the farm, to walk the farm, to talk to the farmers and make a commitment to save this critical icon of our daily lives. We want folks to have fun, to show their children that real food comes out of the soil, not out of a package. We want families to realize they can grow some of their food in home gardens.”
Aside from the big picture thinking behind the event, it is also a way to highlight the beautiful hills of Corralitos and to celebrate the history of farming that takes place in this fertile landscape. “In fact,” says Jordan, “ninety percent of the Corralitos community is in some way connected to farming.”
Amber Turpin is a food writer and baker who homesteads in Ben Lomond.