Agricultural operations around Santa Maria Valley opened their gates to crowds of people who turned out Saturday to see where and how the produce they eat is grown, prepared and packaged during the fourth Santa Barbara County Farm Day.
More than a dozen farms and related ag businesses hosted the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the event that carried the theme “Meet all the hands that feed you.”
In addition to touring some of the facilities to see how they operate, visitors were able to taste free samples of products and even take home fresh produce from onsite farmers markets.
Visitors also heard about some of the challenges, innovations and successes of farming operations directly from the growers and had the opportunity to ask questions about how the foods they eat get from the soil to their tables.
Events varied from one site to another, but most locations offered activities for all ages, with many especially geared toward children.
The annual event is sponsored by SEEAG, or Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture, whose mission is to educate the public about the importance of the agriculture industry in local economies and help them understand what’s involved in putting fresh produce on family tables.
Mary Maranville, founder and president of SEEAG, said many people don’t realize that hundreds of people are involved in growing, harvesting, processing and shipping the fruits and vegetables grown in Santa Barbara County.
That fresh produce not only makes its way onto local tables but is also shipped to countries around the world.
Agriculture is one of the main drivers of the county’s economy, and the Agriculture Commissioners office reported the county’s combined value of ag crops in 2021 was just over $1.9 billion.
Strawberries, the county’s leading crop, which are mostly grown in the Santa Maria Valley, were valued that year at $849.7 million.
Photos: Local producers celebrate Farm Day with Santa Maria community