Your Guide to U-Pick Farms in Santa Cruz County

Blanketing the coastline of Santa Cruz County are seemingly endless fields of strawberries, artichokes, olallieberries, and more: an assortment of the delicious, farm-fresh bounty that feeds this area and the world beyond. The coastal fog covers the rich, fertile land with much-needed moisture all year round, producing an astoundingly fresh bounty meant to be savored. Head to the source of it all to connect to the land and harvest your own crops at one of the many U-Pick Farms sprinkled throughout Santa Cruz County. From the lush, green fields of Davenport to the sun-dappled orchards of Watsonville, don’t miss a chance to spend the day luxuriating in the Santa Cruz County U-Pick Farm experience!

SPRING

After the winter rains give way to sunnier spring days on the coast, up pop tiny flashes of scarlet: strawberries, vibrantly shining amidst the expansive green fields along the central coast. From May to October, it’s strawberry season in Santa Cruz County! Take your pick from local, certified organic farms, like Davenport’s Swanton Berry Farm on weekends and Watsonville’s Crystal Bay Farm on Wednesdays & weekends. Live Earth Farm, also in Watsonville, opens its doors in early June for strawberry picking. Reservations are required. For some extra sweetness, head to Watsonville’s Gizdich Ranch, whose strawberry season starts in May alongside their Pie Shop and Deli, so you can have a picnic after you pick. Don’t forget to check out their Farm Store & Antique Shop on-site! If handpicking flowers is more to your taste, head to Santa Cruz’s Post Street Farm to gather your fill of pastel peonies and vibrant ranunculus.

SUMMER

Come summertime, there is a multitude of options when it comes to foraging fruits, vegetables, and flowers! Swanton Berry Farm opens its organic olallieberry season to the public in June and July. Speaking of olallieberries, they have grown sweet and full of flavor alongside the boysenberries at Gizdich Ranch by midsummer. From June until September, it’s the opportune time to pick raspberries at Crystal Bay Farm in Watsonville. Head to Live Earth Farm to search for the best juicy, ripened blackberries late in summer. Strawberries are still ripe for picking and plentiful during the summer at Swanton Berry Farm, Live Earth Farm, Crystal Bay Farm, and Gizdich Ranch! For a bite of something more savory, collect tomatoes and peppers in August at Live Earth Farm in Watsonville or Post Street Farm in Santa Cruz. Be sure to call or check websites before your visit as some locations require reservations.

To spend an afternoon collecting blossoms, head to Beeline Blooms in Ben Lomond, in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains. After 2020’s wildfires scorched the land around her home, owner Karla DeLong created Beeline Blooms to tend to the community’s need for a safe haven and hope. Visit her garden, pick some lively dahlias to take home, and marvel at the healing ability of nature and community. Dahlia U-pick begins in July and runs until Autumn.

Also blooming in mid-July is the sweet scent of lavender at Noble Harvest Farm in Aptos. Secure your spot with a reservation during their fresh lavender picking season. Pro tip: it’s a great place for a photo shoot!

AUTUMN

The autumn harvest season is one of the best times to visit Santa Cruz County! As the warmth of early autumn turns crisp and the leaves begin to change, many orchards, vines, and blooms reach peak ripeness. Apples are fully in season, and it’s Watsonville’s time to shine: charming farm orchards await, with a delectable assortment of apple varieties to choose from. Make a day out of a visit to Gizdich Ranch, where you can enjoy a sandwich or snack from their deli to fuel up before handpicking apples to bring home. Don’t forget to grab some pie from their shop before you depart with your bounty! Another local favorite is Live Earth Farm, whose gala and fuji apples are ready to pick in late September. Reservations are required. Nearby is a family-owned, certified organic farm focused on their apples and peaches: Clearview Orchards. From September to November, you can pick your own organic fuji and gala apples on weekends. If apple picking isn’t your style, you can still grab a treat from the Apple Barn, which stocks the finest organic apples, dried lavender, local honey, and even homemade apple turnovers. Support local orchards while getting the freshest apples you’ve ever tasted right from the tree!

Autumn is more than apples, however: the strawberry season comes to a close in September, so head to Swanton Berry Farm for the last organic berries of the season. Dahlias are at their fullest in autumn, vibrant blooms covering the mountainside at Ben Lomond’s Beeline Blooms. And it wouldn’t be Fall without picking a pumpkin to decorate your doorstep: there is an abundance of coastal farms and pumpkin patches where you can search for your favorite gourd with an epic ocean background.

WINTER

While the winter season is one of rest for most farms, gardens, and orchards around Santa Cruz County, some crops thrive in the coldest season of the year here. From November through January, visitors can drive up the coast to Davenport’s Swanton Berry Farm to gather organic kiwi as a scrumptious souvenir. Winter is also a great time to stop at the many farmstands and markets to stock up on locally-made preserved goods, such as jams, jellies, and pickled bounty!

TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL U-PICK EXPERIENCE:

  • Check the farm’s schedule. Many farms require reservations or have specific hours when visitors can pick the bounty, so it’s always best to check each farm’s website for requirements to ensure a smooth visit.
  • Dress appropriately. Santa Cruz’s cool marine layer can roll in or out quickly, so be sure to wear layers so that you can be comfortable no matter the climate. Sturdy shoes that you’re not worried about getting dirty are a must!
  • Pack supplies. Don’t forget to lather on the sunscreen and bring water, a hat, and a reusable bag to carry your crops. 
  • Respect the farms. Support these small, local farms while respecting the guidelines they have in place to ensure everyone has a safe and fun visit. 

The abundance of U-Pick farms in Santa Cruz provides a noteworthy way to connect to the area’s roots, its local agriculture, and to revel in its fresh, seasonal produce. No matter which season you’re planning to visit Santa Cruz County, the area’s bounty, from strawberries to olallieberries, apples, and kiwis, is sure to delight. Gather your friends and families to head to the fields and pick your way through Santa Cruz County this season!