Tanaka Farms U-Pick Tour
5380 3/4 University Dr, Irvine, CA 92612 | www.tanakafarms.com
anaka Farms is an absolute hidden gem in Southern California. Tucked in the hills of Irvine, the farm spans 30 acres and is a breath of fresh air among its sprawling urban and suburban surroundings. The operation is headed by Farmer Tanaka who is a 3rd generation Japanese American, descending from a long line of farmers. The entire family is involved, making this a true family owned and operated business. Tanaka Farms was established in 1940 and relocated from Irvine Center Drive and Bake Parkway to its current location in the hills due to land development in 1998. This forced change and physical relocation caused by ever-expanding industrialization helped the Tanaka family decide to implement responsible farming methods.
The 30 acres is nestled amongst rolling hills and is filled with verdant vegetable fields and fruit trees.
The farm itself is beautiful. The 30 acres is nestled amongst rolling hills and is filled with verdant vegetable fields and fruit trees. The produce stand offers the farm’s freshest pickings at great prices. The whole scene is idyllic, transporting visitors from the city to the rustic outdoors in mere minutes. The best way to experience Tanaka Farms is by taking one of their tours. Weekend tours are pretty much set from Feb through June for strawberry picking. The Monday – Friday tours, however, vary by the season, the harvest availability, and time of year (during spring break, for example, they open up weekday tours just for 3 weeks). U-Pick tours are offered when the crops are plentiful and they schedule those about a week in advance. A schedule of tours is available on their calendar here http://www.tanakafarms.com/calendar-of-tours-events/). We highly recommend the U-Pick Tour, it gives the visitor a well-rounded education on Tanaka Farms and their methods as well as a chance to hand-pick fresh produce right out of the ground!
The U-Pick tour is free, educational and fun. A tour guide takes visitors on a tractor ride throughout the farm as he or she narrates the setting, describes the crops and offers opportunities to pick produce. There are usually three stops on the tour where visitors can pick things like kale, Swiss chard, carrots and celery among other fresh vegetables. The guide walks the group through the experience, offering advice and demonstrating the proper methods for picking each item (pull down on kale leaves, up on carrots, how to grab a celery stalk, etc.).
Pro Tip: Bring hand wipes, or something to clean up with after the tour — these vegetables come out of the ground, mud and all!
Double Pro Tip: Wear shoes you can either clean, or you’re okay with getting dirty. Your brand new, bright white suede sneakers will not make it out alive!
It was clear from the start that the Tanaka family is big on educating their visitors and implementing their ideology. Fascinating tidbits were provided about the farm’s responsible methods throughout the tour. The farm runs on a drip irrigation system rather than a sprinkler setup which saves a tremendous amount of water. They also implement a highly methodical crop rotation to maximize nutrients in their natural compost which is environmentally friendly. The guide was sure to mention that they strictly follow all EPA standards for safety and Good Agricultural Practices. Though they are not certified organic, the farm puts into practice all the responsible and environment-conscious methods of an organic farm.
The whole scene is idyllic, transporting visitors from the city to the rustic outdoors in mere minutes.
The Tanaka family is passionate about their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program as they healthfully feed and educate their visitors. The U-Pick tour is an easy and relaxing time packed with information and fun. There is no cost for the tour as you just pay for your fresh-picked fare at the produce stand on your way out. The tour takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Your total visit time should be about an hour and a half considering that they suggest arriving fifteen minutes ahead of the tour you intend to take.
If you live in coastal Orange County and haven’t visited Tanaka Farms, we highly suggest that you do. It is a great outing for families with young children as well as anyone who is interested in visiting an authentic, grassroots farming operation that cares about its consumers and environment. Take a step outside the city, enjoy the open air and sprawling fields, pull some produce out of the ground and get back in touch with where it comes from. Experience Tanaka Farms.