This October, the Smiths invite the public to partake in their annual pumpkin harvest and fall festivities, all of which are perfect for children 12 and under. Of course, all ages are welcome, but if you’re looking for hands-on activities and engaging lectures for kids in a safe, family-friendly environment, check out Smith Family Farm.
Open daily for a nominal admission fee ($8 weekdays, $9 weekends), the farm provides a variety of stations meant to educate and entertain the young ones. These include a Miwok Indian exhibit, honey bee display, hay bale tunnel, corn maze (suitable for small children but fun for all ages), barnyard animal petting and viewing area (peacocks, chickens, roosters, ducks, geese, donkeys, cows, goats, rabbits, chicks and sheep), hay rides, corn shelling and cracking station and pumpkin patch.
You can also step inside the large red barn and participate in a good ol’-fashioned hoedown featuring banjo music. Be on the lookout for the Smith family matriarch, Betty, too. Vibrant and chatty at 84, she loves singing and interacting with her pint-sized guests. “Sometimes I’m in Antioch,” she said, “and kids come up to me saying, ‘Oh, you’re the barn lady!’ They love it. It’s so much fun.”
An area of interest to both children and adults is the organic herb garden, installed two years ago. It features rows of fragrant lavender, stevia, oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary. Guests can gather up a beautiful bouquet of these pungent herbs, pair them with colorful wildflowers and bring them home. Also, take time out for an herbal tea tasting and walk through the nearby sand and stone labyrinth for a moment of quietude.
“We try and keep things very natural, very farm, meaning it’s not an amusement park,” said Janice. “I like that you can come here and get a timeless feeling. There’s something comforting about that, and when you walk away, you feel more balanced, grounded.”
The sprawling farm also includes a picnic area, showcases live bands on the weekends, and operates a country store where dried fruit and nuts are sold. Depending on the day, antique tractors and classic cars might be on display and crafters on site.
“There are a lot of people we see every year. What’s cool is that the kids who came years ago are now bringing their kids,” said Janice. “I love that tradition.”
Tradition also plays a fundamental role in the Smith family. The first generation of Smiths – Vicente Pastor and Angela Domingo – were farmers who originally emigrated from Spain and settled in Knightsen. Their daughter, Betty, married William Smith, and their four children – Janice, Bill, Ken and Shirley – chose to preserve their farming lifestyle by purchasing the 60 acres that comprise the current Smith Family Farm when they were fresh out of high school. They briefly dispersed to attend separate colleges and pursue other careers – Janice, for instance, attended Sonoma State and was also an elementary and high school teacher for a few years – but eventually the farm lured them home. Janice’s son Nic is a fourth-generation Smith who, when not in college, can be found on the farm or assisting at the Farmers’ Market. He also maintains the website and Facebook page.
Smith Family Farm is well known for its 40 varieties of tomatoes and annual tomato festival, held in late August. The Smiths also harvest peaches, plums, eggplants, green beans, squash, zucchini, onions, apples, kale, potatoes, peppers, pomegranates and more. Eighty percent of the produce sold from their fruit stand is grown on their land.
“We have quite a few customers who come year after year, and it’s really nice to have that connection,” said Janice. “It’s fun to watch people come out and enjoy the farm, and that’s the bottom line.”
Smith Family Farm is located at 4430 Sellers Ave. in Knightsen. For more information, call 925-625-5966 or visit www.smithfamilyfarm.com or www.facebook.com/smithfamilyfarms.