Start as Visitors, Leave as Friends: The Big Valley, Small Farms Tour

August 11, 2022

Pig on farm in front of a barn

Just below the shoulders of overarching Mt. Konocti on the fertile soil of Big Valley, several small farms reside. And each spring and fall, they open up their gates for the Big Valley, Small Farms tour. It’s a chance to visit some unique farms and chat with local farmers. This fall, six farms will participate, each with something special to offer. It’s a perfect Saturday experience in Lake County. Hop in the car, put on some good music, and enjoy a drive through some beautiful countryside. Official logo for Big Valley Small Farms

The best place to start is at The Ripe Choice Farm and Catering. There you’ll meet Mark and Tammy Lipps, who head up the Big Valley, Small Farms Tour. You may also bump into their tortoise and pot-bellied pig. But it doesn’t matter who you chat with; they’re all friendly. At the Ripe Choice, you’ll also get to meet community leaders involved in conservation and the health of Clear Lake, North America’s oldest lake. Take some time to wander through the barn, taste an appetizer, and rest under the massive oak trees. “I love our farms,” Mark says, “because you can wrap your arms around the efforts. They aren’t so big that they have a corporate feel. The people you meet are the owners who have their dirt under their fingernails as sweat equity. Support your local small farmer.”

Six half bottles of wine.

The best way to support a local farmer is to visit. After chatting with Mark, swing by Campodonico Olive Farm and take a tour with Lianne and Richard Campodonico. Then head down the road a short way to Edenberry Farm, where you can pick berries and enjoy their amazing vinegars, jams, and jellies.  

Rasberries on the vine

Next stop: Finca Castelero Farm, where you’ll meet Christie White and her husband, Luis. Finca Castelero is filled with old pear farming cabins, which have since been converted into an Airbnb. And Luis grows some spectacular peppers. Take a tour and enjoy their hospitality before hopping back into the car and working your way down the road to Peace and Plenty Saffron Farm.

Drone footage of the vegetable gardens

Peace and Plenty is a unique place. It is North America’s largest saffron farm, and owners Melinda Price and Simon Avery are happy to give a tour and share their story. Plus, Peace and Plenty has a large farm stand, where they sell much of the produce they grow as well as their distinctive, aromatic saffron.

A dozen floral arrangements

As the day winds down, you can end your tour at Bell Haven Flower Farm, located just down the road on the shores of Soda Bay. The property’s filled with the aroma of flowers of all kinds, from Marigolds to Lisianthus. Just walking the property is like stepping into a bouquet. 

There’s nowhere like Big Valley and no farms like these. Mark Lipps says the tour is simple; just bring yourself, a positive attitude, and a smile. And if you didn’t come with a smile, you’re sure to leave with one. “We would love all visitors of Lake County to experience the different priorities a Lake County Big Valley small farm can embrace,” Mark says. “Come explore all of our farms for a great drive around the area. Start out as visitors, leave as friends.”