Pick your own apples, pumpkins and more straight from the fields
“Every year we put something new in and listen to the community. Twenty years ago, it was just a fruit stand.” – Debbie Smith
Fall is the perfect time to stop by Avila Valley Barn for pumpkins, roasted corn, farm fresh food and family fun. Since 1987, the purpose of the farm has been to “Bring agriculture to the community, and have a place to connect,” says owner Debbie Smith. The Smith family currently co-owns this landmark destination with the founding family members, and first found it in a small ad in the paper.
The original owner, local orthodontist Dr. John DeVincenzo, was looking for someone to work there, and Debbie Smith applied and answered it. Out of 100 applicants she was chosen. As the seasons go, a few years later, Smith started to work on it together with DeVincenzo, and helped to develop the farm and watched it grow.
The very first pies Debbie baked in her kitchen using bruised or blemished fruit from the days harvest, which remains to be the same hand-rolled dough recipe used today. With the help of a lot of local support, and tourism in the summers, Avila Valley Barn grew their offerings from just fresh produce and U-Pick-to gifts, a bakery, sweet shop and deli. Owners Debbie and Bruce Smith raised 7 kids and many of them now work on the farm, helping out in every aspect.
The 46 acre family run farm grows seasonal fruits and veggies, and October is their busiest time of the year. “We wanted to make it an outdoor experience,” Smith said. “Every year we put something new in and listen to the community. Twenty years ago, it was just a fruit stand.”
Nowadays, you’ll find 49 varieties of pumpkins from small baseball sized all the way up to pumpkins that weigh hundreds of pounds. Kids and adults can go on a bumpy fun tractor ride to the fields and pick out the perfect pumpkin, or take a trip through the hay maze. Pay a visit to one of their many animals behind the main barn, and see baby goats, cows, mini horses, sheep, guinea hens, and even an emu.
The small valley on the way to Avila Beach is home to wildlife like owls, deer, squirrels, coyotes, bobcats, turkeys, and mountain lions. Avila Valley Barn is one of the few remaining beautifully pristine places where the public can wander the land and harvest fresh, ripe fruit straight from the field. Crisp, juicy apples are ready for picking at the beginning of August, and pumpkins at the end of September. They also offer several varieties of peaches, blackberries, raspberries, and flowers. All of their crops are watered with heavy mineral water, and Avila Hot Springs is just across the street with a soaking pool.
Avila Valley Barn is dedicated to the preservation of the area and uses absolutely no pesticides or herbicides on the farm. Sustainable farming practices include: cover cropping to protect and build the soil, reduced or eliminated tillage to foster healthy soil biology, and animal integration to increase nutrition within the animals, soil, and fruit. Avila Valley Barn strives to be a steward of the land. “My brothers, sister and I all grew up walking barefoot, picking fruit off the trees and even off of the ground. My hopes are that someday our grandkids will have the same opportunity.”
Taste a variety of pies from apricots to peaches, apples to berries and cobblers. Every batch is handmade the old fashioned way, fresh from scratch 7 days a week until 6 p.m. Son Jacob Smith loves what they offer, suggesting, “When you visit Avila Valley Barn, you gotta get the roasted corn, or the wagyu brisket which has been smoked for hours. You can’t go wrong with the bakery’s many options. Our family pie dough recipe is unchanged and over 20 years old, each pie crust is still carefully rolled out by hand. But as the farmer I have to say my favorite would be eating a Jonalicious right off the tree, super sweet and juicy, one of my favorites for sure.”
Avila Valley Barn is located at 560 Avila Beach Dr. between San Luis Obispo and Avila Beach. Open daily from 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. For more information, call (805)595-2816 or visit www.avilavalleybarn.com.