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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Saturday: Made for Farm Fun

No fewer than three cool local gardening/farming open houses sprouted up this Saturday (tomorrow)—including one starring a couple who abandoned urban life to live closer to their food—so Weekly contributor Janet Upadhye, herself a recent transplant from San Francisco, take a closer look at this Saturday's earthy possibilites (scroll to the bottom of the post for event specifics and addresses and links):

When it comes to gardening, Cole Canyon Farms owners Steve Rehn and Pamela Mason are good at giving advice to the clueless. They once were somewhat clueless themselves—coming from San Francisco’s theater district they were worlds away from rural farming.

But they had it in their blood. Mason comes from three generations of farmers and Rehn’s mother was an avid gardener with quite a green thumb. When Mason got a job with Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista, they knew they should follow their own green thumbs and migrate down to farm country.

With genes like theirs, it didn’t take long to learn what grows well in this area and when (like capers!, above). Heading into fall and winter, they are particularly eager to remind locals that in Monterey County you can plant edibles year round if you know what to use. Hence the inspiration for their sale/open house, A Celebration of Winter Gardening at Cole Canyon Farms.

This event caters to newbie food growers and old hats alike. Check out the selection of seedlings and perennial herbs at up to 50 percent off, ready to be planted in the fall, and gain first hand knowledge on how to not kill your new babies, and how to actually turn them into something edible.

Then stuff seedlings in your basket for veggies such as broccoli, cabbages, and multiple members of the greens family and stick in some herbs like oregano, sage, and rosemary, and go home and plant them. Come winter you’ll be making homegrown stew from your own garden in the backyard. Imagine.

Or just stop by to see up to 34 varieties of tomato in one place.

Over in Salinas, ALBA's Let’s Go To The Farm offers fresh, organic produce, straight from small local, organic farms and a chance to talk with farmers and get all the secrets to getting your own little farm into the ground.

Bring your own bag and load up on produce from the heart of the Salinas Valley salad bowl.

Hayrides will also tour the fields—there is no better way to see the farm than from the cush seat of your jacked up tractor of hay. And last, decorate and carve your own local pumpkins for Halloween. ALBA, a local nonprofit that aims to incubate small organic farmers with limited means.

Earthbound Farms offers more fall farming with Fall Fun and Flavor Days at their Farm Stand in Carmel Valley. On Saturdays in October behold their famous pumpkin and squash poles. Think totem pole of multi-colored gourds straight into the sky.

Also participate in cozy autumn activities like cornhusk doll-making and pumpkin carving. If you get hungry, stop by their certified organic kitchen (only the third open in the US) for smoothies, bakery goods, soups, salad bar and in October some special fall goodies. Scarf down your treat out on the deck among their organic flower garden. And don’t leave without attending a cooking demo to learn what to do with all your fresh new food.

Really, the tagline of Cole Canyon Farms sums up the joy of the harvest: If we forget how to grow our own food—others will decide what we eat. Never let anyone decide for you.

“A Celebration of Winter Gardening with an Open Greenhouse & Sale” at Cole Canyon Farm, 1495 Cole Road, Aromas. Saturday, Oct. 16, 9am-4pm.

“Let’s go to the Farm” at ALBA, 1700 Old Stage Road, Salinas. Saturday, Oct. 16, 11am-4pm, Suggested donation $5/group,

“Fall Fun and Flavor Days” at Earthbound Farms, 7250 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel. Saturdays Oct. 16, 23, and 30. 11am-3pm, Free admission,