Best of Apple Hill 2015. Apples for Lunchboxes and Canning. Larsen Apple Barn (Camino, CA)

Apple Hill located in El Dorado County, just outside Sacramento, is our fall obsession. To be honest, we live so close, about 20 minutes away, we visit year-round only during fall we are even more frequent in our trips up Highway 50. Apple Hill is everything fall should be. Apple picking, hot apple cider, farm animals, pony rides, craft booths for early holiday shopping and people watching. You can find me throwing on a cozy plaid shirt and Uggs and heading up the mountain even during the hotest days of September. Why? Because it’s fall! Let’s get on with it already!

We head up almost weekly to do our fruit and vegetable shopping, so we decided to share our favorite farms with you. Follow along this series of posts, starting today, featuring our “Best Of Apple Hill” suggestions for this Apple Hill season.

A friend shared her family secret for finding the best apples for canning about five years ago and we have been going back year after year ever since. Larsen Apple Barn is the longest running family-owned farm in Apple Hill and has been running since 1860. It’s apple farm store is a picturesque corrogated metal barn filled with one of the widest arrays of apple varieties complete with apple tasting table.

For purposes of our “Best Of” review I’m keeping this one short and sweet. Larsen Apple Barn has the cheapest and best apples for canning that we have found. We not only use these apples for applesauce we buy our weekly lunchbox apples here because we can score a 40 lb box for only $16. These boxes are called their “seconds” and that just means they are smaller or have minor defects that make them less desirable than the full price apples sold here. We think they are perfect because they are the best size for our tots and we don’t waste any apples with half-eaten rejects and we don’t mind the defects at all.

Today the seconds boxes included Braeburn, Gala, Golden Delicious, Mutsu and Red Delicious as available varieties. As the season goes on sometimes these seconds boxes won’t be out in the sales area so be sure to ask a sales rep to grab you one from the back.

A tasting table is staffed by employees so visitors can try any of the varieties they are interested in purchasing. Also available for tasting are pears, grapes and peaches as available throughout the season.

Have we convinced you yet? If you are going to visit make sure you come Sunday-Friday, the farm is closed every Saturday and open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm with a musuem and bake shop also available to visitors. If you pack a lunch Larsen owns the park right across the street that has picnic tables and shady areas for kids to run around.

Larsen Apple Barn is open from now through the Sunday after Thanksgiving, closed Saturdays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at 2461 Larsen Dr, Camino, CA 95709 and restrooms and parking are available.

July Tot Friendly Food Festivals.

July is full of family-friendly food events and activities. We have included a list of our favorite tot-friendly choices. Get out and explore California and all the food events celebrating our local farm favorites.

Sacramento and Surrounding Areas

California State Fair
Sacramento, California
July 10-26
The 17-day fair is a robust celebration of the State of California, its industries, agriculture and diversity of its people. Among the highlights are concerts, wine garden, midway rides, demonstration farm (with most crops grown in the state), livestock pavilion, fine arts competition, harness racing, and nightly fireworks. Tastes of the fair include exotic foods from around the world, plenty of healthy & nutritious options, as well as many deep-fried foods: zucchini, Twinkies, funnel cake, chicken, avacado, cheesecake, and more.

Davis Ranch Corn Festival
13211 Jackson Road
Sloughhouse, CA
July 11th & 12th
Featuring local craft artists, pony rides, live music, food vendors, bounce houses, tractor rides and Sloughhouse Sweet Corn. Free admission and Parking.

Marysville Peach Fest
Marysville, California
July 17-18
The 16th Annual Marysville Peach Festival is going to be an exciting event with a wide variety of new and returning craft vendors, food vendors cooking for every taste bud, several delicious choices of peach related foods, and great entertainment for all ages.

Sacratomato Festival
Sacramento, CA
July 25
A family-friendly festival will take place outside on the grounds of Sutter’s Fort SHP. The free Sacratomato Festival will include lots to see and do, such as the following: an on-stage salsa making competition presented by Centro Cocina Mexicana, a tomato tasting garden, lawn games, a hands-on “Tomato Patch” area for kids – with face painting, balloon creations and a grow-your-own tomato activity – tasty foods for sampling and/or sale by Midtown restaurants and bars, cooking demonstrations by the area’s top chefs, Midtown Farmers Market vendors and entertaining live music.

Courtland Pear Fair
Courtland, CA
July 26,
Activities at the festival include vendors, arts and crafts, bands, entertainment, a classic car show, fun run, wine tasting and youth duck calling. At the Classic Car Show guests can ooh- and ahh- over (pre-1973) street rods, muscle cars and classics, plus vintage tractors and steam engines.

Bay Area and Beyond

Gilroy Garlic Festival
Gilroy, CAJuly 24-26
Featuring food, beverages, arts & crafts and live entertainment. The event includes three popular cooking competitions, presenting 60 live concerts, and serving a critically-acclaimed cuisine enhanced with over two tons of fresh California garlic.

Are we missing something? If you know of family farming or food events that we haven’t listed let us know! We love hearing from you!

Cinco de Mayo Fiestas with Tots (Sacramento, CA and Surrounding Areas)

Farm Fresh to You
May 3, 5:00 pm-10:00 am
Capay, CA
Bring your whole family to the 2nd Annual Cinco de Mayo Celebration. Enjoy a full evening of tractor-tram farm tours, kids’ arts and crafts, tortilla-making demonstrations, tomato planting, strawberry harvesting, soccer games and dancing to live mariachi music. Tickets prices are $15 per person through Friday, May 3, or $20 per person at the farm on event day. Kids 12 and under get free admission. All event proceeds benefit The Kathleen Barsotti Non-Profit for Sustainable Agriculture.

Cinco de Mayo Festival-Southside Park
May 3, 12:00 pm-6:00 pm
Sacramento, CA
The highly popular event will celebrate the community’s diverse culture through music, dance, classic auto show and traditional foods such as tacos, moles, grilled oysters, pupusas, burritos and yummy snacks such as fresh frutas, corn on the cob and razpados. The festival will be sure to give everyone plenty of food options, and of course what Cinco de Mayo event is complete without its traditional drinks? Margaritas and Mexican Beers will be available for those mature event goers.

Cinco de Mayo Festival-Auburn
May 5A little bit of Mexico comes to Old Town Auburn. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated annually in the United States and Mexico to commemorate the Mexican army beating 6,000 French troops who had invaded the city of Puebla on May 5, 1882. The Folklorico Dancer Troupe from Sacramento, and pony rides by Pony Up in Newcastle, always a favorite with the buckaroos, will be back again this year along with Mobile Rocks climbing wall and piñatas for the children, and a street dance from 8-9pm. Also a Salsa Making contest with local restaurants – tasters determine the winners! Tasting Kits $2.00 each. And, weather permitting… Chano Uribe will bring his “dancing horses” to show off some fancy foot work. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration for families and children and alcohol is not sold or encouraged at this event. Join us for music, food, vendors, piñatas, dancing, and fun for the entire family.

Fair Oaks Fiesta Days
May 2-3
Fair Oaks, CAThe 66th annual event will take place in the Fair Oaks Village. The two day event is packed with tons to do for the family.
Saturday kicks off the weekend with a parade starting at 10:00 am. and the rest of the day is filled with Craft Vendors, Sacto “MoFo” food trucks, Village merchant shopping, Kids play park, Kids play in the amphitheater, raffles, music and so much more! Sunday’s event starts off with a pancake breakfast held in the Fair Oaks Clubhouse. In addition, the Fair Oaks Sun Run and a classic car show (with over 300 cars lining the streets of the village) will be taking place. Raffles, music, kids park, vendors, village shopping and Sacto “MoFo” food trucks continue to be part of the event on Sunday too.


May 5, 11:00 am-5:00 pm
Sacramento, CA
Come join us for the Best Margaritas, Mexican Authentic recipes, great service, family friendly atmosphere, live mariachi music, food and drink specials all day.

Stockton Cinco de Mayo
May 5
Stockton, CA
Weber Point is the site of this celebration of Mexican-American culture that includes a parade and fiesta celebration.

How Farm Tots All Started.

Four years ago my first child Benjamin was born in the small farming community of Davis, CA.  Through bleary sleep deprived eyes I took my colicky swaddled boy and started endless walks up and down the meandering paths that weaved through our town.  Through sun filtered trees he started to calm as the cool Delta breezes brushed his dark hair from his inquisitive eyes.  I realized quickly that this child was meant to be outdoors.  We explored every inch of every trail that was accessible by stroller and I spoke softly showing him all that the nature surrounding us had to offer.  Horses poked their heads over our back fence and I would point them out each morning to Benjamin and saw his first smiles as could focus his gaze on them.

Nothing could relax Benjamin like being outside and we were fortunate enough to be surrounded by miles of farmland in all directions.  We started venturing out on short drives as the weeks and months started to blur together.  We watched cattle grazing and learned about goats and sheep.  We visited apple orchards and corn fields and I pushed that stroller through dirt pastureland and through muddy puddles.

Our family moved from Davis before Benjamin’s first birthday and settled in another rural community.  This time we found ourselves in El Dorado Hills in the Sierra Foothills just outside Sacramento, CA.  We wanted a home with more land and a lower cost for housing and found just that.  As we planted our own garden and got ourselves settled we welcomed a new family member, our second child, Harper.

With two children we found it even more important to continue to teach our family about the area we had settled.  Benjamin was now the most active two year old boy we could imagine so getting him outside where he could run free, kick the land and move his arms freely was the only way we could get through the transition to having two children in diapers. We set out on weekend trips exploring the foothills and getting to know the people who grow the ingredients that had become staples in our quest for local cuisine.

We made a decision as a family to eat local and organic as much as possible.  When that wasn’t available we would at least try to eat local and as a last resort procure ingredients that were organic from our local stores.  We began cooking more seasonally and learned about what our area offered during different month of the year.

For the last year on each of our outings I have commented to my Husband that there aren’t many resources for families looking to teach their children about local harvests.  The idea for a blog about tot friendly farms and food festivals swirled in my mind for weeks and months.  Now, with a four year old and two year old I have decided to make this blog a priority and try to provide another resource for families that want to learn more about where there food comes from.  I hope our passions for farming, local harvests and cooking can inspire others to try to eat more local foods and teach their children about the importance of land stewardship and how farming fits into the future.

Come join us on our journey!