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Always in Season: California’s Agricultural Bounty

California is the most agriculturally diverse state in the U.S. and is home to 77,500 farms that produce half of the nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables. From mushrooms and artichokes to grapes, avocados and other fruits, California is always in season. As a result, the Golden State is full of agriculturally driven experiences, events and festivals that showcase all the iconic produce and agriculture grown right here.

The artichoke is the official state vegetable of California and the state produces 99 percent of the annual U.S. crop. Get to know this delicious vegetable up close at the annual Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival in Monterey County. This summer event began in 1959 as a harvest festival, celebrating the iconic artichoke and the region which is known as the “Artichoke Center of the World.”

Californians are self-proclaimed avocado aficionados and in 2013, the state declared avocados the official state fruit. Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County is home to the annual Avocado Festival, attracting over 100,000 visitors! For a truly unique experience, head to San Diego in March 2019, where there is a pop-up avocado museum currently in the works. The CADO is the world’s first avocado “museum” and one of the largest mobile container structures ever. Visitors and locals will experience the avocado in epic proportions through seven rooms of immersive art installations.

While you’re in the area, don’t miss The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. Every spring, nearly 50 acres of vibrant Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers bloom. This annual burst of color, which has become part of the area’s local heritage, is one of nature’s official ways of announcing the arrival of spring in Southern California.

Between California Wine Month and the world-renowned California Wine Country, it should come as no surprise that grapes play a significant role in the state’s agriculture. There are over 100 varietals grown in California, including in lesser-known wine regions like Temecula Valley. Wine grapes are the mostly widely planted crop, and the area is home to over 30 wineries. Visitors can experience agriculture firsthand on a custom Farm Tour at Peltzer Farms, or, for a birds-eye-view of the vineyards, attend the annual Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival.

Greater Palm Springs is the primary date-growing region of the United States, responsible for nearly 95 percent of the nation's crop. For almost a century Shields Date Garden has been a place where people come to experience date culture. From the moment you walk through the doors, customers are greeted by every imaginable product incorporating dates, including the famous date shake. Taste the many different variety of dates grown and complete your Shields adventure with a breathtaking walk through the 17-acre date grove.

Enjoy a day immersing yourself in what Mendocino County is most famous for – mushrooms. Approximately 80 percent of the county’s wild mushrooms come from national forest lands, which are prominent in Mendocino County. FEAST MENDOCINO encompasses a week of festivities in November when visitors have the opportunity to learn all about mushrooms. The festival includes music, wine and fungi-themed food, as well as the opportunity to get your hands dirty on a foraging adventure!

Gilroy, also known as the “Garlic Capital of the World,” is known for its annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, featuring various garlicky foods including surprisingly delicious garlic ice cream. The heart of the Gilroy Garlic Festival is the world-famous Gourmet Alley. In this gigantic outdoor kitchen, the “Pyro Chefs” put on a spectacular flame-up show while preparing garlic-laced calamari and scampi in huge iron skillets.

With California producing 80 percent of the nation's strawberries, providing almost a year-round supply, it’s no surprise the California Strawberry Festival in Oxnard is among the top agricultural festivals in the nation. This is the perfect festival for all strawberry lovers to enjoy with over 50 food booths, contests, rides and attractions, over 200 arts and crafts vendors, concerts, celebrity chef demonstrations, and family fun.

Are tomatoes fruits or vegetables? Technically a tomato is a fruit, since it is the ripened ovary of a plant, but in 1893 the Supreme Court ruled tomatoes are to be considered vegetables. In any case, Paso Robles is flush with tomatoes and celebrates its bounty at the annual Windrose Farm Heirloom Tomato Festival. Held every fall, the festival features the state’s best chefs creating dozens of dishes with the farm’s 30 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

Olives grow best in climates that are mild in the winter and hot in the summer, meaning that California has ideal growing conditions. In Rancho Palos Verdes, Terranea Resort hosts the annual Peninsula Olive Celebration where visitors can learn all about olives and olive oil. Guests are invited to partake in the pressing of olive oil and olive curing with Terranea’s team of chefs, led by Executive Chef Bernard Ibarra. Using olives picked earlier in the morning from nearby Villa Oneiro Vineyard and orchard, guests will enjoy complimentary tastes of olive oil made from the orchard’s 70+ Mediterranean varietals.

California is the sole producer (99 percent or more) for many fruits such as peaches, pomegranates, plums and figs. From Shasta Cascade to Orange County, there are various stops you can make in this state to pick up some of your favorite fruits.

Start your fruit picking in Shasta Cascade, at the Saturday Redding Market in Redding. With fresh fruit, vegetables and local vendors open all year long, you won’t miss your seasonal favorites.

Head south where after the gold rush era, Tuolumne County residents turned to agriculture to make a living. Drink up the local goodness at Indigeny Reserve, a 160-acre preserve and apple orchard set in the heart of Gold Country.

Continue on your journey and experience the Fresno County Fruit Trail, a self-guided tour through California's agriculture heartland. This trail is full of stops all throughout the Central Valley where you can pick fruits and vegetables and experience landmarks like the Wawona Peach Tree, where you can pick the freshest peaches.

End your fruit trail in Costa Mesa, home to the 3-acre Centennial Farm, a year-round, fully functioning farm, designed to educate the community about the rich agriculture history of Orange County and its importance to daily life. Every year from July to August, the Orange County Fair is held at these grounds to celebrate agriculture and produce in the area.

For more information about experiencing the state’s agricultural bounty, read about California’s Amazing Agritourism Experiences or Farm Tours & Drives.


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