apple hill

Harris Tree Farm (Pollock Pines, CA)

Blackberry season is here in the Bay Area and Sacramento. I have been on the search for a farm to go blackberry picking since we moved to the area years ago. Following a lead from a local tourism professional I called the owners of Harris Tree Farm. We ventured up to the farm this weekend and picked over two pounds of sustainably farmed blackberries in the quietest farm we have ever been.

If you aren’t familiar with Pollock Pines, it’s just up Highway 50 after Apple Hill on the way to South Lake Tahoe. The farm is only a quick detour about a five minute drive from the exit. It’s a quaint foothills town with towering trees and apple orchards as far as you can see. Look for the signs for Harris Tree Farm and turn into the driveway. There is gravel lot parking and the farm is usually not too crowded this time of the year. Once out of the car make your way to the barn with the large apple on the door and once inside you get instructions and equipment for berry picking. The family that owns and operates this farm couldn’t be any nicer or more full of information. Ask questions. They are area experts and taught us so much about their farm and the area.

I chatted with one of the owners of the farm that told me blackberry season is just starting in this part of the state and should run through September and maybe longer depending on conditions. Blackberries at Harris Tree Farm are farmed sustainably. This means the owners only use organic fertilizer and use sustainable growing practices.

When we visited the farm around lunch time on a Saturday we were the only guests. Unlike some of the more touristy farms this one retains it’s family friendly approach and we were able to just relax and run free since no one else was around. The landscape is so impressive the place instantly transports visitors to a different time. The blackberry growing area is surrounded by trees and rustic buildings that make for a real farm experience.

Blackberry picking is open Friday-Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm through the growing season. School groups and field trips can easily be arranged for other days by calling the farm main office. Individuals and groups are encouraged to bring picnic lunches and lunch tables are available under the apple trees. Homemade baked pies are also available for purchase. Bring cash.

Harris Tree Farm is located at 2640 Blair Road Pollock Pines, CA 95726

Farmstand Visit. Boa Vista Orchards. Apple Hill (Placerville, CA)

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Apple Hill is known for it’s fall season that runs from Labor Day through November.  The season dips for a week or two and then returns with excitement the day after Thanksgiving when eager families from Sacramento and surrounding areas come looking for the perfect Christmas tree.  Apple Hill often gets some early snow in the fall months making it a chilly excursion we keep returning for year after year.  My favorite time in Apple Hill comes after the busy months.  Winter is my favorite season when crowds have thinned out, parking becomes easier and my country buzz isn’t spoiled by throngs of tourists.  Most apple farms  are shuttered by this time and only my favorite remains.  Boa Vista Orchards.

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Boa Vista is open every day year round making it a destination for any season.  We use Boa Vista as a nice 20 minute drive to shake off our routine and get out of the city.  For Sacramento residents it’s about 45-60 minutes up Highway 50 towards South Lake Tahoe.  Apple Hill gets some snow occasionally, except usually is below chain control, so it’s the perfect stop for weary Tahoe travelers.  It’s only about a 2 minute departure from Highway 50 and offers restrooms, easy plentiful parking, picnic areas and lots of room to stretch out and take a break.

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Boa Vista is a family owned farm that features their own products along with those of neighboring farms and beyond.  Apples are available year round so my family can get our fill of the giant boxes we crave.  Because it’s a fully operational farm stand Boa Vista also offers baked goods, dairy products, frozen pies, juices, artisan sauces and marinades, local honey and more.

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I can do all my weekly shopping at Boa Vista in one easy stop.  Seasonal produce is available so summer months offer mouth-watering sweet peaches, cherries and more.  Each month offers a new surprise so we try to come throughout the year.  During the fall busy season Boa Vista features local artists and craftsmen and has a fully operational barbecue stand giving hungry visitors a variety of options.  During slower months and year round there is also food available at the bakery window inside the stand.  A wood burning stove is a cozy gathering spot on cold days to enjoy a warm beverage and your choice of apple baked goods.

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Today we got two 20 pound boxes of apples that were the BOGO (buy one get one) price of $14.99 making each box only$7.50 and that’s way cheaper than any of our surrounding grocery stores.  (Boa Vista Orchards does not feature organic produce except it is mostly local so for me it’s a partial win).  We also picked up Bosc pears, a pineapple, tomatoes, lemons and a big bag of oranges.  We also picked up some unpasteurized apple cider that was also a BOGO price of $7.99 making each gallon jug only $4.  These jugs are freezable so picking up one extra and throwing it in the freezer is easy and preserves the juice for another week or two.  There are more bottled juice options available outside the refrigerator area including apple, pear and more than I can list.  Just venture off to the deepest corner of the stand next to the refrigerators.

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I don’t usually buy frozen pies except this year my family picked one up for me for a post Thanksgiving party we were hosting.  The pies are often on sale for just $6.99 for the traditional apple pie variety and it baked up to make the most impressive homestyle apple pie I have had.  There are lots of interesting varieties so if you want to be able to take your Apple Hill bakery experience with you to replicate at home this is the place to make your purchase.

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Boa Vista is waiting for you to explore at 2952 Carson Rd., Placerville, CA 95667.  Reach them at 530.622.5522 or online at www.boavista.com