A crop of new agritourism experiences is popping up around the Yuma area. Yuma Visitors Bureau is encouraging folks in the agriculture industry to share their stories through agriculturally-inspired experiences. To see what's sprouting - and learn more about Yuma County's number one industry - stop by the Visitor Information Center at 201 N. 4th Avenue.
YVB is offering two different kinds of agriculture tours for the 2011-12 season. For details, dates and ticket information, click on the tour name:
All tours depart from our
Visitor Information Center
201 N. 4th Avenue
UCDRC Farm Smart program
University of California Desert Research & Extension Center
1004 E. Holton Rd.
El Centro, CA
“Grownup” programs in January and February help support school field trips to the research farm, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Includes tour, music, lunch – and “u pick” produce to take home. Reservations required – call for 2012 prices and schedule.
Cooking / culinary
“Cooking With Sabor”
214 W. Main Street, Somerton, 627-9222, www.somertonmainstreetcafe.com
Hands-on classes use homegrown ingredients in healthy recipes with border flavor (sabor), from tamales to nopales (cactus paddles) to Sonoran desserts.
From the Farm and Afar
5158 South Highway 95, 344-8114, www.fromthefarmyuma.com
Classes to help you learn the lost arts from grandmother's kitchen are sized to ensure personal attention.
645 S. 2nd Ave. (at St. Paul's Cultural Center), 783-3530, www.stpaulsculturalcenter.com
Tina Clark and friends will explore heritage cooking traditions in a charming Southwestern kitchen.
Taco Trail Culinary Tours
Visitor Information Center, 201 N. 4th Avenue, 783-0071 (800-293-0071)
Enjoy a progressive dinner – with designated driver – to sample local fare, from taco trucks to fine dining. Call for schedule, pricing, reservations.
Dates & treats
The date is one of the oldest cultured tree crops in the world, dating back more than 5,000 years. Medjool dates, which originated in Morocco, are naturally sweet, fat- and cholesterol-free and high in fiber and anti-oxidants. Medjools were introduced here in 1944, and this area is now the world's largest producer, thanks to a favorable microclimate along the Colorado River. Yuma County also ranks number one in Arizona for lemon, tangelo and tangerine production, and for growing watermelons and cantaloupes.
245 S. Main Street
Bard Date Company, one of the largest growers in the area, has a year-round retail outlet at Basket Creations and More downtown. The store offers all grades of Medjools and chopped, cooking and pitted dates, plus many different gift packages, souvenirs, custom gift baskets and Southwest jellies and candies. And from October through April, they offer date shakes, too! Tours of the groves are given once a month on Saturdays, sign up at the store. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday thru Saturday all year.
1517 York Road
At this family-owned date garden, you'll find a large assortment of gift packs, nuts, candies - and winter visitors enjoying date shakes. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (all California time) from Sept. 15 to April 15. Tours offered for groups of 12 or more, call in advance. Take 4th Avenue across Colorado River, turn right on S-24 and follow signs for Imperial Dam; the date gardens are on west side of road.
9747 Avenue 9-3/4 E
This date farm near Arizona Western College sells a variety of products including dates, dried fruits, nuts, natural and organic gourmet foods. They also offer deli sandwiches, date shakes, ice cream and more. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday from mid-October through the end of May. Take Highway 95 east to Avenue 9E, go south to Araby-Blaisdale Road (along north side of train tracks), then east and watch for signs.
4322 E. County 13th St.
The Peanut Patch is a local favorite for visitors and residents alike, with a history that dates back to a post-World War II family of homesteaders who started growing peanuts on the Yuma Mesa. Today, it offers a wide variety of homemade fudge, mixed nuts, dried fruits and other creative delicacies. Free kitchen tours are given at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays during the winter travel season (reserve two weeks ahead for groups of 10 or more). Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday from October through April, closed on major holidays.
11242 E. Foothills Blvd., 287-1117
No, they haven’t started growing cacao beans in Yuma – but all the hand-crafted chocolates on offer here are all made on the premises from recipes developed by owner Bob Shrader. Chocolate therapy at its best, plus five flavors of “killer” caramel corn.
Abundant sunshine and the nation's longest growing season makes gardening a year-round pleasure. To see how locals rise to the challenge of making the desert bloom, check out these public gardens.
Moody Demonstration Garden
2200 W. 28th Street, 726.3904
The Robert J. Moody Demonstration Garden serves as a “living library” to show what thrives in Yuma’s desert climes. Seeded by the City of Yuma, Yuma County and the University of Arizona, this garden now grows thanks to volunteers and donations. Free admission year round during daylight hours. Call to set up a tour.
2520 E. 32nd St.
This 28-acre educational garden features native Sonoran Desert plants, a duck pond, antique farm machinery, desert tortoises, a botanical garden, walking paths and a 100-seat outdoor classroom. The garden and machinery display are open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays from November through April. Midweek tours can be scheduled by appointment for groups of at least 10 people. Admission free, donations welcomed. Take 32nd Street to the fairgrounds, look for garden entrance at west end of parking area.
U-pick and farmers markets
Yuma Community Food Bank hosts farmers markets twice a week from December-February (except holidays): Tuesdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in Historic Downtown, Saturdays 9 a.m.-noon at Yuma Palms Regional Center. More info, call Yuma Community Food Bank at 343-1243.
New in 2012, the City of Somerton, Cocopah Indian Tribe, Regional Center for Border Health and the Yuma Visitors Bureau are sponsoring a weekly farmers market in Somerton, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays. More info, call 627-9222.
From the Farm and Afar
General store and assorted u-pick crops depending on season. 5158 South Highway 95, 344.8114