Pick Your Own Apples in the North Bay!

August 16, 2014

Picking apples at Twin Hill Ranch in SebastopolLate summer marks the start of apple season, and plenty of the tasty and popular fruits can be found in the North Bay, especially in the area around Sebastopol in western Sonoma County. Sebastopol is the de facto apple capital of the Bay Area, and it's justifiably famous for its Gravenstein apples, a variety that you won't find grown commerically anywhere else.

While it's fun to eat and cook with apples, it's even more fun (and educational) to head out into an orchard and pick them yourselves!

If you're not lucky enough to have an apple tree growing in your backyard, then head up to one of the local apple farms that offers a u-pick experience. It's a fun family outing, and prices and quality are usually bettter than you'll find in the supermarket. There's nothing quite like an afternoon on the farm, too.

This year, apple season kicks off in early August with local favorite Gravensteins, and continues through the late summer and fall with varieties like Golden Delicious (September and October), Granny Smith (October and November), and Fuji (October through December). Like any other crop, apples are dependent on a variety of factors, so make sure you check with farms before you decide to visit to make sure there's something available to pick.

Picking apples at Twin Hill Ranch in SebastopolApples from Chileno Valley Ranch

Chileno Valley Ranch

Note: Chileno Valley Ranch is closed for the 2014 u-pick season.

Chileno Valley Ranch grows organic apples—all of which are blind taste test winners—and provides them to local markets like Toby's Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station and the Organic Farmstead at the Marin Art and Garden Center in Ross. You can visit the ranch for u-pick from Labor Day weekend through the month of October. There's a preview day on Sunday, August 17 (no u-pick on Sunday, August 24). Varieties include Zesta, Orin, Pinova, Molly's Delicious, and Jonathan's Pride.

U-pick takes place on Sundays only from 10 am to 4 pm, and apples cost $2 per pound. There's a $6 per car parking fee (refundable with a $50 or more purchase). You can also take a farm tour and buy eggs and other farm products.

Chileno Valley Ranch is located at 5105 Chileno Valley Road west of Petaluma. More information: www.chilenobnb.com or (707) 765-6664.  Read our article about our visit to Chileno Valley Ranch.

Gabriel Farm

Gabriel Farm is a family-run, certified organic farm in Graton, just north of Sebastopol. They grow a variety of apples including Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Gala, Rome Beauty, Fuji, and McIntosh. U-pick here is an activity for their CSA members only; you can join at the farm by purchasing a membership. A share consists of a case (6 half-gallon bottles) of their tasty Asian pear juice ($35). U-pick takes place on weekends from 10 am to 3 pm or weekdays by appointment.

Gabriel Farm's u-pick season starts in late August and usually runs through October. U-pick apples cost $2 per pound in addition to the cost of the CSA membership. You can still visit their farm store, where they offer apples, Asian pears, lavender, and other products, without joining their CSA.

Gabriel Farm is located at 3175 Sullivan Road in Graton. More information: www.gabrielfarm.com or (707) 829-0617. Read our article about Gabriel Farm here.

Apple orchardPicking apples

Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch

Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch west of Sebastopol offers Gravenstein, Golden Delicious, and Rome apples. U-pick is offered from August through October; call first to make sure there's somebody at the ranch to meet you when you think you'd like to stop by: (707) 823-0538.

They're open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm and Sundays 9 am to 5 pm; closed Saturdays. They also process and sell fresh apple juice, which we hear is delicious. More information: (707) 823-0538.

Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch is located at 13128 Occidental Road in Sebastopol.

Pleasant Hill Farm

Certified organic Pleasant Hill Farm in Sebastopol offers a u-pick experience for groups by appointment. This beautiful farm has five acres of semi-dwarf organic apple trees, including Fujis, Royal Galas, Red Delicious, Arkansas Black, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith, too.

U-pick season here starts in late August or early September, and it's an ideal place for school groups or groups of family and friends (8 minimum) who want to try their hands at apple picking. Two large picnic tables (which seat about 40 people), made from cypress and redwood trees, make this an appealing place for groups to relax and have a picnic after apple picking. There's even a tree swing to play on! Make sure you wear closed-toe shoes for the orchard.

Call Victoria at (415) 306-1413 for information on prices and seasonality, or to make an appointment. She also runs a vacation rental on the property in a restored turn-of-the century barn and tank house. Pleasant Hill Farm is located on Pleasant Hill Road in Sebastopol.