Five days of farming fun – Arizona offers variety of agricultural experiences

Andrew Gilstrap (compliments of

From you-pick orchards to how-it’s-made tours, try Arizona’s varied agricultural experiences for fresh family fun.

Take a five-day trip to some of the finest open-to-the-public Arizona farms and orchards and see why the state is renowned for diverse climates and crops.

On this journey, you will be able to take home an assortment of produce, possibly picked by you, as wells as pecans, olive oil, goat cheese and much more.

Day 1: Say Cheese

Begin your farm tour at the base of the White Mountains, east of Snowflake, at Black Mesa Ranch. Sample award-winning goat cheeses while the kids meet the animals. In November and December, Black Mesa rolls out decadent holiday candies, such as goat’s milk fudge.

Next stop: Cornville. Procure your first batch of fresh, homegrown produce at Folded Hills Orchard. Folded Hills offers many varieties of apples and, seasonally, blackberries, peaches and tomatoes. Pick your own or purchase at the stand.

Day 2: Just Peachy

Start your day at Tolmachoff Farms in Glendale. The whole family will enjoy a morning train ride around the grounds, as well as the hay pyramid, petting zoo, and fresh produce stand. Each October, a pumpkin patch and six-acre corn maze add to the fun.

Hold off on lunch until reaching Queen Creek Olive Mill on Greater Phoenix’s southeastern edge. After eating fresh bruschetta and sandwiches at the mill’s restaurant, del Piero–which was touted on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate–take a 30-minute tour of the mill, then sample oils and stuffed olives. Buy some of the local flavors from the on-site market to enjoy at home.

Your last destination lies just up the road: Schnepf Farms. Famous for its peaches, Schnepf Farms features a petting zoo, play yard, giant slide and “U-pick” organic garden and orchard. Visit the Country Store for crafts and jarred products, and just try to resist the fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, muffins and pies.

Day 3: Mmmm…Milk

Shamrock Farms in Stanfield (about an hour south of downtown Phoenix, near Interstate 8) offers a 60-minute tour of its dairy farm on an open-air tram. Watch a farmer milk a cow, pet a calf, and, if you’re lucky, witness the birth of a calf.

While away the afternoon enjoying premium ice cream and soft pretzels at the farm’s Roxie’s Ice Cream Parlor. Pay a visit to Roxie’s gift shop, then explore the dairy museum to see how the company grew from 20 cows and a Model T delivery truck in 1922 to more than 10,000 cows and a team of semi-trucks today.

Day 4: An Apple a Day…

Spend your day in Willcox, a town brimming with farms for exploring.

Head to Apple Annie’s Orchard for the Saturday or Sunday all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. Apple Annie’s farmland seasonally sprouts peaches, Asian pears and, of course, apples–all ripe for the picking. Enjoy the aroma of homemade pies and apple bread being prepared in the bakery, visit the fudge kitchen, and shop for toys and crafts in the gift shop.

Next, head to nearby Stout’s Cider Mill. Although you can’t tour the orchard, you can sample fresh-pressed apple ciders as well as apple pies, fruit preserves and more–all for sale in the country-style store.

First goats, now sheep: Visit a working sheep ranch at Karoo Genetics. Embark on an hour-and-a-half guided adventure, during which you’ll interact with the sheep and witness how dogs maneuver the critters in and out of the pen.

Day 5: Go Nuts

Every weekend, Agua Linda Farm in Amado, south of Tucson, offers you-pick produce. After filling your basket in the fields, visit the farm store for raw honey, grass-pastured beef and other local goods. Kids will enjoy the petting zoo, and the new Garden Grill prepares lunch using the farm’s seasonal goods.

Nearby, Sahuarita’s Green Valley Pecan Company, possibly the largest organic pecan farm in the country, distributes nuts nationwide, but you can sample from the source. Stop in the factory store for tastes of natural and candied pecans, as well as cookies, jams, coffee and barbecue.