Departing from downtown Brentwood, the cyclists first toured Simoni and Massoni Farms, where they sampled corn fresh from the field. “I never knew you could eat raw corn!” exclaimed one cyclist as she nibbled on an ear.
Continuing to Frog Hollow Farm, the group was greeted by owner Al Courchesne, his wife Becky and their two children, who guided the group through the orchards, stopping to pick apricots and cherries. Fresh Approach’s chefs were busy preparing lunch in Frog Hollow’s kitchen: peach lemonade made with Frog Hollow yellow peaches, sweet corn chili made with Simoni and Massoni yellow corn, and Niçoise salad made with eggs and herbs from Shelly’s Garden, the final destination on the tour.
During lunch, served in the shade of Frog Hollow’s packing shed, guests were invited to sample olive oils from Olio Bello d’Oliva, whose owners, Don and Gail Della Nina, dropped in to offer samples of their award-winning oils and vinegars.
After finishing the meal with grilled peaches and apricots drizzled with honey and balsamic vinegar, the visitors said goodbye to Frog Hollow and set off for Shelly’s garden, where they tasted four kinds of basil (sweet, lemon, Thai and cinnamon) as well as exotic herbs such as shiso (commonly used in sushi) and epazote (found in many Mexican dishes).
Shelly’s stevia, an herb sweeter than sugar, was a hit even with non-cooks in the group, and her hens and baby chicks kept everyone entertained throughout the visit. “These hens live a great life, grazing in pastures just like they’re supposed to,” said Shelly, explaining that she keeps her hens in mobile coops that move throughout her pasture until the hens become too old to keep up egg production, at which point she sells them at auction. “They just have one bad day,” she quipped about their post-auction fate.
“I’ll tell everyone I know to look for you at the farmers’ market, because your herbs are the best,” said one visitor to the farm.
“That’s exactly what we love to hear,” said Fresh Approach’s Executive Director Sarah Nelson. “Our goal is to build relationships between Bay Area residents and the local farmers who grow their food. We were excited to see people coming from San Francisco and Berkeley all the way to Brentwood to taste the best locally-grown corn and peaches.”
Fresh Approach and the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association have teamed up to present farm tours throughout the summer. The first tour, in May, visited farms in Pleasanton and Livermore. For information about upcoming farm tours to Watsonville and Half Moon Bay, call 925-825-9090 or visit www.freshapproach.org.