Pick Your Own Apples in the North Bay!
Late 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 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.
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. You can visit the ranch for u-pick this 2018 season every Sunday from August 19 through October. Varieties include Zesta, Orin, Pinova, Molly's Delicious, and Jonathan's Pride. Reservations open on Wednesday, August 1.
U-pick takes place on Sundays only from 9 am to 3 pm, with the last entry at 1 pm. Apples and pears cost $2 per pound. There's a $8 per car parking fee you register in advance; $12 without a reservation. You can also take a farm tour and buy eggs and other farm products. Note that u-pick may be canceled depending on apple availability and weather.
Chileno Valley Ranch is located at 5105 Chileno Valley Road west of Petaluma. More information: mikeandsallygalebeefranch.com or (707) 765-6664. Read our article about our visit to Chileno Valley Ranch.
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 or apple juice ($39). U-pick takes place on weekends from 10 am to 3 pm or weekdays by appointment.
Gabriel Farm's u-pick season starts in August and usually runs through November. U-pick apples cost $2.50 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.
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 or on their Facebook page.
Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch is located at 13128 Occidental Road in Sebastopol.