Our trip up to the Central Coast earlier this month was pretty haphazardly planned. In fact, we had booked our hotel room only an hour before we hopped in the car! But Martin was excited to discover things to do along the way (it’s about the journey, after all) and he was especially looking forward to fruit picking. U Pick is the term for farms that open to the public and allow patrons to pick their own fruit which they can later purchase by the pound. Some farms even let you enjoy the fruit in the field or orchard, the absolute freshest you can get! The best one we had found was the Avila Valley Barn in Avila Beach, a small city in San Luis Obispo County.
Situated immediately off the coast-hugging, scenic 101, the first thing you see when you turn off Avila Beach Drive is a quaint series of buildings that house the general store, a roasted corn stand, and an ice cream shop. Gather just in front of the general store and wait for the tractor to pull up. There is only one and it arrives to pick up new visitors every hour or so. We had arrived around 4 and managed to catch the very last tractor ride of the day!
The complimentary tractor ride took us back to the orchards, giving us a tour of the property that was deceptively expansive. Hang on tight because your seat is really just a wooden flatbed covered in hay, and there are quite a few bumps along the way (haha – like my rhyme?).
First we passed by the seemingly endless field of corn. Our fellow passengers made jokes referencing Children of the Corn. The farm has a cute little stand that sells sweet roasted corn, either whole cobs or sliced off the cob for your dining convenience. I wish we had tried one – they must be wonderfully fresh!
Aside from the cornfield, pumpkin patch, berry patch, and rows and rows of apple and peach trees, the farm also had a mini labyrinth of tall, gorgeous sunflowers. I wanted to run through them and frolic like a carefree bunny.
Finally, we arrived at the orchard. We were a bit too early for apple picking, but with autumn approaching, they should be ripe for the picking. According to their website, there are 10 varieties of apples all ready in September! But for us, beautiful blush-pink yellow peaches awaited.
Our friendly tractor driver announced just one rule – don’t pick the green ones. Other than that, we were welcome to eat as many peaches as we wanted during our time in the orchard, and they provided cardboard boxes for us to take some back to purchase at $1.50 a pound. Martin and I were excited to get going.
The peaches looked amazing. Stunning gradients of reddish pink to golden yellow with delicate fuzz, I could not wait to sample one right off the tree. Warmed by the sun and perfectly ripe, these yellow peaches were sweet and tart.
It was cool being able to pick them from the trees because we had never seen peaches so small (but fully ripened and ready). Super cute and great for snacking. They also made unique souvenirs for our friends back home since they look like miniature versions of the standard sized peach.
I grabbed the easy to pick ones within reach that were not already devoured by birds. Martin, however, enjoyed the challenge almost more than eating the actual peaches! He reached up on his tippy toes to get these beauties. He gently bent branches to pick the ones he had his sights set on. Nothing could deter him. It was awesome.
We ended up filling a shallow box of the freshest peaches I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat. We were one of the last people to make it back to the tractor (luckily they didn’t leave us behind!) and before long, we were on our way to the main shop.
The general store at Avila Valley Barn sells a huge variety of local products – honey, apple cider, baked goods, farm fresh vegetables, flowers, jams, dried fruit, chips, and more. The jams are pretty darn good and come in teeny tiny jars for gifting (and more “normal” sized jars for regular consumption). The apricot was my favorite.
After we browsed their wares, we went to pay for our picked peaches. But I’ll admit – I was startled by the surprise visitor while we were standing in line: a crowing rooster! We saw a man come out with slices of bread, as if leaving an offering for the Mighty Rooster; I think it crows to demand food just like our cats do.
We’re sad that summer is coming to an end, but with fall coming up, we hope to make a return visit to pick apples and perhaps bring home a handpicked pumpkin for Halloween. If you’re looking for a U Pick farm in the SLO County area, we definitely recommend swinging by Avila Valley Barn for a tractor ride adventure!
Check out Avila Valley Barn: avilavalleybarn.com
560 Avila Beach Dr
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
See their Yelp reviews here!
Wear closed-toe shoes and be prepared to be poked by hay. Also – say hello to the llamas!