“Now more than ever, people want to learn even more about where their food comes from, how it’s grown, who their farmer is, and how local products are made,” she said.
A SLO County native, Sonne has always been in love with all this county has to offer, especially its farms, ranches, and riding trails. The concept for FARMstead ED came to her while out horseback riding one day on a friend’s ranch. An enthusiastic fan of all her friends’ hand-crafted foods and products, she wanted to bring them to a larger audience. Why not find a way to bring people out to the sites themselves, offer a real-world experience, and teach them a little in the bargain.
Founded six years ago, FARMstead ED “collaborates and cross-pollinates with farms, ranches, and purveyors throughout SLO County, bringing farms and guests together to learn hands-on how food gets to their table and how products are made for their daily living,” said a recent press release.
Wait. Table to farm? Didn’t it used to be farm to table? Well, yes. But in the time of COVID, as many businesses are doing the “pandemic pivot,” so too, is FARMstead ED. Where farm-to-table means serving local food in restaurants and schools and the movement to bring awareness that what we see on our plates comes from a farm—FARMstead ED brings the table to the farm, offering up local chefs who prepare meals for an on-site dining experience. They’ve even started to take them to private parties for people vacationing at Air BnB locations.
This summer, and now this fall, people are looking for uniquely creative outdoor experiences and the fresh air that comes with wide-open spaces. And that’s where the SLO County Farm Trail comes in. An offshoot of FARMstead ED, and now in its second year, the trail “connects agri-enthusiasts with ranches, farms, and purveyors of SLO County using a printed and online trail map.”
Ticket prices vary and are listed on the website at www.farmsteaded.com. Proceeds from ticket sales go to the organization, to promotion, and to the participating farms themselves. It’s a way for them to stay afloat during a time when so many businesses are having to close their doors.
With families spending more time together, and homeschooling on the rise, these private tours, and custom programs offer both entertainment and a bit of a vacation for the whole family. Here are just a few of the offerings. Jam Session at Hartley Farms (a jam-making workshop at the farm), Inside the Olive (extra virgin olive oil tasting & farm tour), Sip & Soak Self Care Experience by Life Elements (a foot soak with hand-crafted self-care products), and the Goat & Alpaca Experience.
For the fall, there’s a Farms & Flowers Photography workshop, Pumpkin Picking at Avila Valley Barn, and Olive Harvest. “It’s my favorite time of year,” said Sonne. “Indian summer lingers with warm days and cool nights … and the colorful show Ma Nature puts on during this harvest month.”
“My dream is for enough space to mention each and every farmer, rancher, purveyor, chef, photographer, restaurant, and sponsor that shares their knowledge of food and craft with us. All so we can be better educated about the products and groceries that feed our daily lives.”
Feeling anxious, worried, lonely, or melancholy? A trip on the SLO County Farm Trail might be just what the doctor would prescribe.