My daughter’s school has a field trip to Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol to pick raspberries next week, and I’m looking forward to joining her as it’s been many years since I visited a you-pick farm. Picking fruit is something we tend to take for granted living in Napa with fruit trees and a vegetable garden in our own yard; however, there’s nothing like going to a farm to pick apples and berries. Late summer (we have one more week) and early fall are the perfect time – the weather is nice and picking fruit is a great way to enjoy the outdoors with your family. Plus, it provides a fun opportunity to show your kids where their food comes from. Call ahead to make sure there is a good supply of fruit for picking as the season depends on Mother Nature.

Apple Hill
Located in the heart of Gold Country, Apple Hill is home to more than 50 farms offering a variety of activities throughout the year, including hay and corn mazes, pumpkin patches, pony rides, craft stands, a train ride … plus a whole lot more. We stopped by in August, on our way home from camping in Lake Tahoe, but we were just a few weeks short of apple season, which officially opened on Labor Day weekend. September is traditionally the best month for you-pick apples. Visit the website for a complete list but here are a few of the farms that offer you-pick opportunities.

Arguers Orchard: Pick your own grapes.
Bolster’s Hilltop Ranch: You-pick blueberries, you-pick apples, cider mill, forest nature trail, cider vinegars and baked goods.  24Carrot Farm: Visit the farmstand, you-pick apples, strawberries and pumpkins and enjoy the serene pond and picnic area.  Goodness Orchard: Farm sales and you-pick strawberries June-November, Mon-Fri. by appointment only.
Goyette’s North Canyon Ranch: Pick your own apples, hunt for a pumpkin in the patch, cut a sunflower or pick ears of Indian corn.  Harris Tree Farm: Seasonal you-pick berries, apples, and pumpkins; apple cider, vegetables and fresh eggs.
Pine O’Mine: Originally a Christmas tree farm, now you-pick blueberries, raspberries, apples, and pumpkins.

Amber Oaks Raspberries
2770 Shanley Rd.
Auburn, CA 95603
A “pick your own” farm offering seasonal fresh berries, chestnuts, mandarins, kiwi, tomatoes, rhubarb, and many other varieties of seasonal produce. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, June through November by appointment.

Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch
13128 Occidental Rd.
Sebastopol, CA 95472
This family-run business grows Gravenstein, golden delicious, and Rome apples, and makes a delicious organic apple juice and cider. You-pick is offered September and October, closed on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Chileno Valley Ranch
5105 Chileno Valley Rd.
Petaluma, CA 94952
Home to Mike and Sally Gale, Chileno Valley Ranch is primarily a grass-fed beef and lamb ranch that also offers you-pick organic apples with varieties such as Orin, Pinova, Candy Crisp, and Jonagold. All the apple varieties are blind taste test winners, and can be purchased from the ranch during you-pick days, which continue every Sunday until there are no apples, which is usually October; however, the you-pick season ended early this year.

Erickson Ranch
2482 Cordelia Rd.
Suisun Valley, CA 94534
The season started in June with Blenheim apricots and Dahlias, and they offer you-pick tomatoes, peppers, herbs, watermelon, pumpkins and flowers. Open Saturdays and Sundays, 9 am-6 pm, through early November.

Gabriel Farm
3175 Sullivan Rd.
Sebastopol, CA 95472
This 14-acre organic farm features 8 varieties of Asian Pears, multiple varieties of apples, Fuyu persimmons, lavender, plums and many sorts of berries. September and August are prime time for apples, Asian pears, raspberries, tomatoes, pumpkins and winter squash. September and October are ideal for picking organic apples and other fruits such as pears, berries and tomatoes. Because of the high demand for the you-pick experience, and the limited size of their orchard, it is reserved for farm CSA members. The price of membership is a case of juice: for $36 you get 3 gallons of shelf-stable juice and the ability to pick and purchase whatever is in season.

Swanton Berry Farm
25 Swanton Rd.
Davenport, CA 95017
The organic strawberry you-pick is open every day from 8 am-7 pm through September, and strawberries are $4/lb. The weather out on the coast is quite variable so bring layers and appropriate farm shoes. Cash or check only.

There are more…Brentwood has a number of you-pick farms, although most of them are closed for the season. Watsonville and San Luis Obispo also feature a number of farms including Clearview Organic Orchards, Gizdich Ranch, Crystal Bay Farm, and Swanton Pacific Ranch.

Happy picking!