Spring is finally here, and the time is ripe for supporting the county’s farmers and food purveyors. If you’re already a regular at a local farmers’ market, go a step further and get your produce straight from the source by booking a farm tour. These companies offer hands-on, socially distanced fun, from picking your own fresh strawberries to private tours of a camel dairy.
Yes, there is a camel dairy farm in San Diego County, and those looking for a more private experience will find the Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona right
up their alley. Restrictions brought on by the pandemic limited operations down to private tours, so groups of up to 25 people are able to book a visit to meet the “farm friends.” Handwashing stations—with camel-milk soap made on-site—are available throughout the farm. Visitors can also find cockatoos, parrots, sheep, turkeys, and, of course, camels. Tours include treats to feed the camels and sheep, while those feeling extra adventurous can add on a camel ride. While fresh camel milk and cheeses are not currently for sale due to state restrictions, guests can purchase camel milk products such as chocolate, lotion, skin serum, lip balm, soap, and bath bombs.
26757 Highway 78, Ramona
The Ukegawa family has been growing strawberries at this 48-acre farm for four generations. When strawberry season kicks off in late March or early April, the public is invited to visit, pick them right off the vine, and enjoy the fruits of their labor ($10 for admission, one small bucket per person). Owner Jimmy Ukegawa says the size of their farm allows for plenty of social distancing, and hand-sanitizing stations are set up around the property. Along with strawberry picking, the farm offers tractor rides, apple cannons, and a sunflower maze. This year, Ukegawa expects strawberry season to last through July.
1050 Cannon Road, Carlsbad
Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs
Early on in the pandemic as many grocery stores were running out of eggs, Hilliker’s Ranch in East County sold their farm-fresh eggs in a unique way: via drive-thru, which allowed people to get their eggs in a safe and novel way. The family-run ranch was established in 1942 by Frank and Josephine Hilliker in Encanto. As agricultural land in the county moved east, so did the Hillikers, and they landed in Lakeside. After implementing social distancing measures, siblings and third-generation owners Frank and Lara were able to reopen the store and offer their customers fresh milk, eggs, jams, and cheeses. Hilliker’s Ranch even offers honey made from bees on the property. While there’s no longer a drive-thru, Frank invites folks to come inside to check out the products—you might even see the egg-packing machine in action.
11329 El Nopal, Lakeside; 619-448-3683