The land here is fertile. Around every bend in the road, you’ll find a farm, an orchard, or a field of alfalfa. And there’s good reason for that—the history of agriculture in SYV dates back to the early 19th century with traditional agriculture like cattle, dairy, barley, beans, and sugar beets being grown here.
Although the diary and sugar beet farms are long gone, (the last dairy farm on Baseline closed in 2003), you will still see plenty of produce stands sprinkled around the valley offering an abundance of fruits and vegetables.
On a recent Saturday, I toured most of the local farmstands to peruse their summer bounty. It was a lovely way to spend the day and an activity I highly recommend if you love to cook (like I do) and are always hunting for exceptional produce. This would also make a fantastic non-drinking activity in the valley. A lot of the attention in our area is so focused on wine tasting that it is easy to forget there’s plenty to do here other than drink.
So get out there and enjoy some just-pulled-from-the-dirt goodness and support our local farmers!
Something Good Organics, Buellton
When I stopped by, Matt, the farmer, was sampling fresh watermelon to everyone in line (yes, their produce is that good that there was line to buy it). While he shared watermelon slices, he explained what to look for when selecting melon. His wife Carolyn runs their popular CSA program that delivers their fresh produce weekly in boxes with drop off locations throughout SYV and Santa Barbara. It’s a convenient and affordable (starting at $21) way to eat more fruits and vegetables. Carolyn also keeps an active weekly blog that’s filled with recipes that incorporate their produce.
What To Buy:
Everything. You can’t miss here, it’s all so fresh. Their strawberries had my mother-in-law (who’s from Maryland) ask if we can ship them to her when they are in season. And their bell peppers will have you hesitant to cook them, they are so sweet and crunchy raw. Their cherry tomatoes are like eating candy from a vine. And their basil and tomatoes are a chef’s kiss that will have you making a caprese salad that night.
Folded Hill Farmstand, outside Buellton
When you first get out of your car, you’ll be immediately drawn to the pigs, goats, and donkeys in the pasture right next to the farmstand barn. These animated animals will have you captivated watching their antics as the pigs roll in their mud puddle, the donkey’s mug for photos, and the goats come over to see if you’ve got any food. Once you wander into their barn, you’ll see an array of curated goods for sale. I had my eye on some local lavender body oil and green bean pickles. They also sell baked goods, fresh eggs, nuts, hats, cold drinks, and a small (but decent) selection of vegetables.
What to Buy:
This is one of the few places that offers the option for u-pick. When I went, they had u-pick raspberries and strawberries across the street on their farm. So grab a basket, make sure you’ve got closed toe shoes, and pick your berries fresh from the vine. And be sure to use the quaint veggie wash sink on the backside of the barn if you plan to snack on your berries while you drive.
Buttonwood Farm & Winery, Solvang
You can’t miss their big “Peaches” sign on Alamo Pintato Road, and I assumed that’s all they’d be selling. But I was pleasantly surprised to see they had green beans, cucumbers, garlic, and zucchini as well. And their sign said they have sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, watermelons, and pumpkins coming soon. While the bounty was somewhat small, I appreciated that they were selling other things grown on the property besides their well-known peaches. They have a Venmo code to scan, so you can serve yourself and pay without any hassle.
What to Buy:
Peaches! Cue the President of the United States song from 1995 called “Peaches” (give it a listen if you’ve never heard it).
Ballard Walnut Grove, Ballard
This quant farmstand will draw you in with its unassuming but welcoming stand located at the front of the farm. They have 1-pound bags of walnuts available, and you can even sample one with the provided nutcracker. I tried one while I was there, and they are creamy and smooth. They will shame any store-bought walnut you’ve ever had. Occasionally, they will have seasonal produce available, such as Meyer lemons oranges, persimmons, zucchini, tomatoes, and more. They work off the honor system and have a box available for contributions. And as a bonus: they will sometimes have annual flower bulbs for folks to plant in their garden free for the taking.
What to Buy:
Walnuts in the shell
Summerset Farm, Santa Ynez
We bought our Christmas tree here in the winter, and I know they grow lots of squash, pumpkins, and gourds in the fall. But in summer, it’s all about the u-pick blackberries and raspberries. You can also wander in their sunflower maze and remind yourself that you’re in CA, not the south of France. I talked with owner, and she said their eggs were fresh, and that she makes all the jams. They also had a variety of onions, garlic and shallots.
What to Buy:
The homemade apricot jam is the best I’ve ever had, a perfect balance of tart and sweet. Don’t leave without a jar.
Roblar Farmstand, Santa Ynez
This winery is busy a lot, so it makes sense that they built their farmstand at the back of the parking lot to allow guests to visit the farmstand without having to battle for parking with the wine tasters. Roblar’s 3-acre farm is down the block from the winery and not visible to visitors. They planted their acres as a “market garden,” producing 40+ seasonal varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs. I was blown away by the robust variety and quality (and great price) of the produce they had. The chalkboard sign hanging in the farmstand tells you what’s available and how much. They had leeks, fennel, carrots, green onions, peaches, broccoli, eggs, chard, kale, and an abundance of fresh herbs. They also had buckets of spectacular flowers for sale ranging in price from $6-$12.
What to Buy:
I bought watermelon radishes (for pickling), a large bag of basil (for pesto), and a bundle of the flowers (for my kitchen table). I highly recommend this as a go-to for vegetable staples like garlic, herbs, potatoes, and greens….and be sure to snag some flowers while you’re there.
Finley Farms, Santa Ynez
This local's favorite has an enticing variety of just-picked fruits and vegetables including melons, berries, little gem lettuces, basil, tomatoes, arugula, and strawberries (these sell out every day). The Finely farmstand is a family affair with Chris, Johanna, and their four kids all helping to bring their delicious produce to the tables of the valley residents. I know quite a few chefs who stop by this farmstand for menu inspiration. And if you show up too late, you’ll find all their berries are sold out. Their produce is so fresh, it tastes different from anything you can buy in the store. You’ll often see “Finley Farm’s Salad” on the menus at local restaurants for good reason. It’s that good.
What to Buy:
It’s all fantastic, so load up. I get the shishito peppers when they are in season, the strawberries, basil, potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon and a bag of their mixed greens. They usually have sunflowers or ranunculus for sale in the summer as well.
A Few Notes Before You Farmstand Hop: