Perusing plums, peaches and pickles at the local farmers market is often a highlight in my week, but when my family and I are willing to drive a bit farther, visiting an actual farm is a lovely change of pace. When my kids and I crave open space and a rustic, throwback experience, we head to Underwood Family Farms.
Open since 1980, this Moorpark destination is both a working farm and hands-on education center. My eldest daughter first visited with her kindergarten class. The field trip was designed to help students better understand where their food comes from, and to have them appreciate the myriad workers who tend, pick, pack and transport that food. They went to the farm “classroom,” sitting on hay bales while farmers taught about plants. Then it was off to the fields via tractor-pulled wagon. The kids disembarked and got their hands dirty, pulling carrots, beets, lettuce and herbs right from the soil and taking them home to use in meals.
That U-pick experience, for which you pay by the pound, is available year-round, with produce options changing with the season. Crops like bok choy, fennel, turnips, kohlrabi, beets and mandarins were available in April. Berries, cucumber, tomatoes, squash and beans are some of what’s available now through September. Kids will love the independence as they wander the rows, plucking ripe berries and filling their own personal cartons.
Additionally, the Animal Center here offers play equipment (from tire tunnels in a hillside to a combine that’s been turned into a giant slide), and lots of opportunities to observe, pet and feed farm animals. Sleepy pigs rest in the mud, and chickens cluck about and sit on their eggs. Turkeys, bunnies and alpacas live here too. The goats are particularly fascinating to watch as they climb around on an elaborate setup of ramps, some 20 feet in the air, bleating as they go.
If you want to see the farm in party mode, visit during one of its annual holiday events. Underwood’s Fall Harvest Festival runs September 30 to October 31—great for U-pick pumpkins—and the Christmas on the Farm event runs throughout December. You can choose your tree from a large lot, and kids can visit Santa and get a snapshot. Crying allowed.
The celeb hang-out of the 80s.