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Fruit picking at Watsonville's Gizdich Ranch

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Fruit season is here, and with it the opportunities to have berries, stone fruit, and strawberries picked ripe. Farmstands are all over as soon as one gets out to the countryside--there are a few nice ones along the 1 south of Half Moon Bay--and quite a few "you-pick" farms within reasonable driving distance, as close as Pescadero and as far away as Healdsburg.

Away from Brentwood--often hot, dusty, and too close to the real Central Valley agricultural worker experience to be pleasant--it's difficult to go wrong. Watsonville is a good choice, since several farms are open and there's so much else to do in that area: hiking up in the redwoods, going to the beach, visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, kayaking out among the otters and sea lions in Elkhorn Slough, or even continuing on to Big Sur.

Among the fruit-picking options is Gizdich Ranch. With a gift and antique shop, a deli, and a pie counter, it verges on being a Casa de Fruta-style tourist trap, but doesn't cross the line. It's a farm with a little extra for visitors, not a farm theme park. A slice of pie costs about as much as at a diner on the peninsula, and the you-pick fruit prices are competitive.

At present, strawberry and olallieberry (a kind of hybrid blackberry similar to a boysenberry) fields are open for picking. Last weekend, even as late as Sunday afternoon, there was plenty of ripe fruit on the plants and even with nearly-full parking areas enough space for there to be peace and quiet out between rows of trellised olallieberries.

Gizdich Ranch is located at 55 Peckham Road, just west of Watsonville. Fruit availability, hours, and other information may be found on their website. For almost complete listings of you-pick farms and farmstands in the area, visit www.pickyourown.org.

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