Brett Ferini from Rancho Laguna Farms standing in a strawberry field.
Brett Ferini from Rancho Laguna Farms said the Santa Barbara County Farm Day provides a chance for growers to share about farming operations. The fourth Farm Day will take place Saturday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara County Farm Day will show off the Ferini family’s passion.

“It opens our operations, our passions up to the public,” said Brett Ferini of Rancho Laguna Farms in explaining the family owned ag business’ participation in Farm Day.

“I just think it’s very important, and I want to bridge the gap between us the growers, the farmers, and the consumers, our customers. I think it’s a much more complex business than people think and know about,” he added.

The fourth annual Farm Day on Saturday will provide a chance to see various farming operations up close from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the theme “Meet All the Hands That Feed You.”

Visitors can use an online Farm Day Trail Map to build a custom itinerary to navigate between growers throughout the Santa Maria Valley for Saturday’s free self-guided tours.

The public will experience a day of free agricultural activities for all ages, farm tours, and giveaways, plus hear from the local farmers. 

“It’s really to educate the general public — all generations — about where their food comes from, and to increase their knowledge and awareness of growers’ social-responsibility practices and not just what they grow and how they grow it,” said Mary Maranville, founder and president of Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture.

The non-profit group SEEAG organizes Farm Day each year in the county after launching the progam in Ventua County.

Social responsibility refers to food safety, fair labor practices, water conservation, social health, and more about what it takes to grow food in the 21st century, she added.

In addition to tours, growers offer taste testing and produce to take home, with on-site farmer’s markets.

A new participant this year is Las Cumbres Ranch, a cattle ranching operation between Orcutt and Los Alamos.

Other participating growers and ag-related organizations include Allan Hancock College Agriculture and Viticulture & Enology Program, Babé Farms, Bejo Seeds, Bonipak Produce, Engel & Gray Harvest Blend Compost, JB Dewar, Mark Richardson Center and Agricultural Farm, Plantel Nurseries, Primus Labs, Rancho Laguna Farms, Reiter Affiliated Companies and Riverbench Vineyard & Winery.

Tours like those on Farm Day can help clear up misperceptions people have about farming operations, such as why farmers use hoop houses, Maranville said.

“It’s to create a micro-climate inside there. Raspberries don’t like direct sunlight. They like filtered sunlight, so that’s why they have the hoop houses. They also don’t like wind because it can knock the berries off,” she said. 

The county’s two previous in-person Farm Days — 2020’s event was virtual — have drawn thousands of visitors to area farms and related operations. In 2021, organizers estimated the event saw 6,000 visitors. 

“We all eat, so we should all know a little bit more about what we’re eating and where it comes from,” Maranville said. 

Rancho Laguna, involving the Ferini family which has deep roots in the Santa Maria Valley ag industry, grows strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, plus an assortment of vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, cilantro and more.

Operator Larry Ferini, a Santa Barbara County planning commissioner, runs the business with his sons.

This year, Rancho Laguna will show its blueberry operations and give visitors a chance to pick their own to fill a clamshell container to take home the fruit.

“It’s fun for us,” Brett Ferini said. “I love seeing people appreciate what we do.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.