Branch out on Farm Day and visit Ventura County growers
Source: Ventura County Star
Do you know where your food comes from and how it’s grown?
You can find out Saturday when more than 20 Ventura County farms will open their doors to the public during the sixth annual Ventura County Farm Day.
“Growers, farmers and agricultural organizations are coming together for one purpose, and that is to educate the general public about where their food is grown and how it’s grown,” said Mary Maranville, founder and CEO of Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture — SEEAG — which organizes Farm Day.
“We eat every day, and it’s important to know where your food is coming from, and to know who the farmers are in your backyard and how to support them,” said Maranville, who lives in Ojai. “These are hard-working people, and it’s important to know every aspect of what farmers have to deal with on a daily basis.”
Farm Day will kicks off Friday with a barbecue from 4-7:30 p.m. at Oxnard Historic Farm Park, 1251 Gottfried Place, Oxnard. This event will include games, raffles and a farmers appreciation awards ceremony, as well as live entertainment by Mark David. Tickets are $15 to $45, and can be purchased at www.venturacountyfarmday.com.
Tours start Saturday at 10 a.m. and run until 3 p.m. Visitors can create their own itinerary by choosing from among the farms listed at www.venturacountyfarmday.com— and realizing this list is only a drop in Ventura County's farming bucket.
“There are about 2,000 farms in Ventura County, big and small,” Maranville said. “And out of those farms, they supply 54 different countries around the world with produce.”
This is largely because of the area’s Mediterranean climate, “and we can grow food here all year,” Maranville said.
“I really think that we in Southern California take it for granted, because we can go to the farmers markets here all year, and the grocery store is stocked with an abundance of very fresh fruits and vegetables,” Maranville said. “If you go to other parts of the United States in the wintertime, they can’t grow food in the winter. When you think about it that way, we could depend on these farmers for our survival.”
Farms on the tour include Earthtrine Farm in the Ojai Valley, where guests will learn how farmers grow more than 100 different crops throughout the year, including chard, dandelions, green leaf lettuces and kale.
Those who visit Gill’s Onions in Oxnard will learn how its processing plant is 100 percent waste-free because it turns its onion waste into bio-fuel to generate electricity. At Houweling’s Tomatoes in Camarillo, guests will learn about hydroponic greenhouse growing and sustainable farming, as well as sample hydroponically grown tomatoes. This visit requires preregistration.
Visitors can tour an olive press house and taste cold-pressed olive oil at the Ojai Olive Oil Company, mingle with alpacas at Alpacas at Windy Hill in Somis and learn how the jujube fruit is grown at Boku Superfood in Ojai.
At Petty Ranch in Saticoy, a fifth-generation Ventura County family farm, visitors will learn about the lemon and avocado business, “but this year we will try to focus a little more attention on the Farm Lab,” said Chris Sayer, manager of the ranch.
SEEAG’s Farm Lab experiments with crops that are relatively new to Ventura County and may someday play a larger role, he said. They include figs, apples, persimmons, pears and apricots.
Youngsters who participate in Farm Day will learn about the opportunities and careers available in agriculture, Maranville said.
“A lot of people associate farming with an older man in overalls on a tractor, or harvesters, but that is not the case,” she said. “There are soil scientists, seed scientists, engineers, hydroponic specialists, botanists — and safety is a big one. If you graduate with a degree in food safety, you get hired right away.”
Most people don't know that Ventura County is one of the top counties in the country in terms of agricultural productivity, Sayer said.
“Of 4,000 counties in the USA, Ventura County usually ranks between number 9 and 11 nationally, with more than $2 billion in crop value,” he said.
“That's a huge accomplishment, especially for a small piece of land that we share with 800,000 urban and suburban neighbors,” Sayer added. “Farm Day is a day that we get to show them what we do, and help build a better relationship with our neighbors who may often only see our farms from their cars on the 101.”