As a hotbed of sustainable agriculture and small family farms for decades, it’s no wonder Sonoma Valley became the birthplace of the American farm-to-table movement. Blessed with rich soils, a sunny climate and cooling fog and sea breezes makes the food here taste special--so much so that the iconic food writer, MFK Fisher, made the valley her final home, and Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters still sources from our local farms to create her inspired menus. Whether you’re enjoying produce in our local restaurants or from the farmer’s market, Sonoma Valley’s produce is sure to dazzle even the most discerning palates.
This love of food has inspired visitors to come to the valley in search of the farms and ranches that bring it to its artful finale. Below, we’ve curated a list of our favorite places to visit, many of which are perfect for families. Before planning your visit, definitely check out Sonoma County Farm Trails to unlock all the possibilities available throughout the county, whether you’re looking for cheese, fresh veggies, or ranch-raised beef. Then check in with the individual locations before visiting, so you’re sure to secure a spot on a tour, get the right hours of farm stands (some are seasonal), and learn about their specialties. To do a deeper dive and learn about conditions facing farms and farmers, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s website offers a host of training and educational resources.
We hate to break the bad news, but the farm stands in Sonoma Valley make the produce aisle in your home supermarket pale in comparison. Fresh out of the garden, with the farmers right in front of you, you’ll be able to explore all sorts of vegetables and heirloom varietals you may never have seen before. One of our favorite farm stands is at Oak Hill Farm off of Highway 12. This old family farm is the stuff of fairytales with an extensive flower garden, fresh produce and homemade wreaths sold out of their Red Barn Farm Store, and a multi-generational history. Come visit on Saturday mornings during the growing season for a half-hour tour of the property. Charmed but can’t make it? No worries. You can also find their produce at the local farmers’ markets.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Sonoma Valley during the spring, don’t miss Watmaugh Farms at the corner of Watmaugh Road and Arnold Drive in Sonoma! Have your cash handy and pop them in your mouth as soon as possible. They are some of the largest, ripest and juiciest strawberries you’ll ever have.
And that’s just for starters! Year-round, check out Flat Bed Farm in Glen Ellen, Green String Farm in Petaluma, and the Sonoma Valley Fruit Baskets on Arnold Drive and on Highway 12--all great places to get delicious produce.
If you are looking for the ultimate farm experience, come savor the hospitality at Beltane Ranch. You’ll stay in a historic landmark farmhouse established by Mary Ellen Pleasant in 1892, enjoy panoramic views of the vineyards and garden, and relish the warm hospitality of breakfast on the porch and picnic lunches. Take a nap in a hammock, snack on homemade cookies before your private tour of the ranch by 4x4, and then end the day with a game of horseshoes while sipping on Beltane’s award-winning wines. With over 100 acres to explore, and a relaxed pace to embrace, you’ll find yourself dreaming of simpler times.
In addition to the Saturday morning tours at Oak Hill Farm, be sure to check out Charlie’s Acres Farm Animal Sanctuary. Vegans, children, and animal lovers will delight at the family of rescued farm animals and the educational bend of this beloved nonprofit.
As always, make sure to check the websites or call the farms directly before coming by for a tour. Farms have dangerous equipment and not all of them are suited for visitors. And when you do make it to the farm, please be sure to bring your best behavior, touch things only when invited to, and please keep your pets at home. Farmers are some of the most warm and welcoming folks in the valley, and they love to offer you the best experience possible.