About 450 people visited Andy’s Orchard in Morgan Hill for a special tour and stone fruit tasting Aug. 3.
It was the fourth of five such events hosted by owner Andy Mariani and his knowledgeable staff this year.
“It’s a day trip out to the farm,” said Mariani. “We feel it’s an educational experience (for adults and kids). They learn where the food actually comes from. They are able to pick it right off the tree and eat it. That’s an invaluable experience, especially when you’re young. You get to appreciate good fruit.”
Mariani took over operation of his family’s Morgan Hill farm in 2003 and has made it a point to organize these tours for the benefit of the visitors as well as his business.
“They call it agri-tainment or agri-tourism,” said Mariani, whose orchard covers about 86 acres off Half Road. “The tour includes not just the orchards but also where we pack the fruit and where we cut and dry the fruit as well.”
This past Saturday, the herds of consumers began the tour at 10am sharp, tasting 80 to 85 varieties of fruit, which were grown commercially on the orchard or from a special collection. From there, they broke off into groups of 30, and the educational experience continued with a guided tour.
“They are able to ask questions about how we grow the fruit, the history of Santa Clara Valley fruit growing and about our orchard in particular,” Mariani said. “With the tour, they’re allowed to take a small bucket and carry it out with them in the orchard, go to the trees and pick something that they like.”
Participants are charged a low $2.75 per pound price for what they pick, according to Mariani.
“They’ll come in with a variety of fruits like plums, cherries, apricots, peaches and nectarines,” he added. “They pick it just the way they want it, whether they want it on the green side or more ripe side. It’s up to them.”
This was the fourth of five tasting tours at Andy’s Orchard. The last one for 2019 is this weekend, on Sunday, Aug. 11. For tickets and information, visit andysorchard.com.
Each tasting and tour is based on the time of year, beginning with mostly cherries ripening around Father’s Day and then apricots followed by peaches, nectarines and plums.
“They’re all well-attended,” said Mariani, noting that these events are integral in the survival of his farm. “It’s an event that supplements our fruit production with some income. From a business standpoint, that helps. … It’s a way of them understanding better what farming is all about, especially on the urban edge. And it’s the way we can survive” as a business.
Mariani relishes the opportunity to connect with those living in and around Silicon Valley so he can continue to provide high-end fruits to the region.
“If we just grew the fruit and put it on the truck, we would never survive. We need to get as much income out of the acreage we have,” Mariani said. “It’s a different way of surviving here because the land is very expensive.”