Ventura County Farm Day is back. The challenge? Deciding where to go

With more than a dozen possible locations to squeeze into a five-hour time frame, Ventura County Farm Day offers a free, self-guided look at the region's embarrassment of agricultural riches on a tight schedule.

You could choose one spot at which to linger, but Mary Maranville, the event's founder, isn't wild about the idea.

"I think no one should go to just one place," Maranville said with a laugh. "There's such a diversity to all of the different locations, and in farming in general, so there's not one farm or grower you're going to talk to that's like any other."

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Mary Maranville, founder and CEO of SEEAG, and Chris Sayer of Petty Ranch pose in the Saticoy orchard that serves as SEEAG's Farm Lab. The property, which has been in Sayer's family for more than 100 years, will be open to the public during Ventura County Farm Day on Nov. 9. (Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/JOHN PHANEUF for SEEAG)

Now in its seventh year, the tour will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 9.

Stops include the organic Earthtrine Farm in Ojai, an alpaca ranch in Somis, the 19th-century Rancho Camulos Museum in Piru and AGQ Labs, a high-tech food testing and agricultural laboratory in Oxnard.

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Workers tend tomatoes growing in a greenhouse at Houweling's in Camarillo. The state-of-the-art facility will offer by-reservation tours during Ventura County Farm Day on Nov. 9. (Photo: STAR FILE PHOTO)

It will kick off two nights prior with a ticketed heritage pig roast prepared by Kyle Jones, chef and owner of Craft Woodfired Catering.

Served from 5 p.m. Nov. 7, the dinner ($95) at Topa Mountain Winery will also feature hand-made pâtés and pickled seasonal vegetables, warm pear and cambazola tartlets, coal-roasted artichokes, fennel-orange salad with pecorino romano, heirloom tomatoes with lemon basil and sea salt, and slow-cooked white beans with Tuscan kale and herbs. VIP tickets ($125) include early entry and a wine flight.

The pig was purchased last month at the Kern County Fair, Maranville said. But vegetables for the meal are coming from Ventura County farms. 

"Like the tour, the goal is to focus on local food as much as possible," added Maranville, founder and CEO of SEEAG or Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture. The organization launched Ventura County Farm Day in 2013. It presented the first Santa Barbara County Farm Day last month and may take the idea even further afield in the future.

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Chef Kyle Jones, of Craft Woodfired Catering, will prepare a heritage pig roast for the Ventura County Farm Day kick-off dinner on Nov. 7. (Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/JENNIFER OLSON)

New features in Ventura County this year include the soil-health study site at Limoneira in Santa Paula and a cover-crops demonstration at UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, where wagon tours will be available by prior registration.

Returning sites include Ojai Olive Oil, which will offer impromptu tours and tastings, and the Oxnard Historic Farm Park, where farm-day visitors can see vintage farm equipment and purchase a barbecue lunch from the Cowboy John's Smoken BBQ food truck.  

Some locations ask that visitors register in advance for guided tours with limited space. Pre-registration is required to see the state-of-the-art greenhouses at Houweling's in Camarillo, which specializes in hydroponic tomatoes and cucumbers. (To register, go the the farm-day website and click on the tab that corresponds with the location you wish to visit.)

Maranville might not like the suggestion, but there is one location that could serve as a one-stop shop for time-strapped tour-goers: The Farm Day Hub at Farm Lab.

Located at Petty Ranch in Saticoy, The Hub will bring together activities for kids, an informational booth about Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, a pop-up farmers market in the Farm Fresh van and goats milk soap-making demonstrations by Fillmore-based Chivas Skin Care

Petty Ranch serves as the home of SEEAG's Farm Lab, a program that gives local third-graders a chance to learn about insects, soil, plant biology and agriculture at a working farm. During Ventura County Farm Day, it will extend the lesson to visitors of all ages, as fifth-generation grower Chris Sayer leads by-registration tours through the avocado, lemon and fig trees.

For information and a map of participating locations, click on https://www.venturacountyfarmday.com.

Author: Lisa McKinnon

Source: Ventura County Star