Food & Drink

Avila Valley apple farm invites visitors to pick their own fruit

Jen Miller, GleanSLO's program manager, picks apples from the area designated for the gleaning teams; the apples are then transported to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County warehouses for distribution.
Jen Miller, GleanSLO's program manager, picks apples from the area designated for the gleaning teams; the apples are then transported to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County warehouses for distribution.

Hints of fall are in the air, and that means it’s time to celebrate all things apple by attending the inaugural Avila Apple Festival this weekend or by visiting one of the participating local orchards such as the Gable family’s SLO Creek Farms.

Located just off Highway 101 between San Luis Obispo and Shell Beach, SLO Creek Farms occupies just over 40 acres parallel to the freeway along Monte Road. One of the properties in the Avila Beach/See Canyon area originally planted by John DeVincenzo, a pioneering figure in the local apple industry, it was purchased by the Gables about 13 years ago.

The family leased the orchard to DeVincenzo while they ran their Nevada-based construction company, visiting the scenic property whenever they could. When DeVincenzo passed away in 2009, the Gables found themselves in the position to make more of a commitment to the orchard and started the process of moving to the Central Coast full-time.

“We immediately thought we should do a U-pick,” said Robyn Gable, who owns the family’s operation along with her husband Blythe and their children Ashley, Brandon and Taysia. “I’m passionate about organic, healthy foods, so we immediately stopped spraying (the orchard), and now we’re certified organic.”

Visitors to SLO Creek Farms’ U-pick are invited to do exactly that — pick their own apples and pay for them at the orchard stand. Several varieties are available, including Braeburn, Fiji, Granny Smith, Gala and Empire, and the season typically runs from about the end of August until the beginning of November.

“Because we’re organic, little kids can just pick an apple, wipe it off and take a bite — there’s nothing on it that will hurt them,” said Gable. “I love being able to do that for people.”

If you can’t get to the orchard, the Gables will bring the orchard to you via apples and flash-pasteurized cider at several different farmers market throughout the county. Market locations are listed on the website.

In addition to growing healthy food, the Gable family also believes in giving back to the community in other ways.

They make the property available for scheduled group outings, lease a small part of their acreage as a 16-plot certified organic community garden, and dedicate a portion of their orchard each year to the GleanSLO program. 

Volunteers organized by that program visit the designated rows several times throughout the harvest season, and all of the apples are donated to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County

“We try to do a lot of good, fun things here,” said Gable, noting that the orchard is a very family-friendly place to visit. “We try to help create memories, and people love coming out here. It’s so peaceful.”

If you go

SLO Creek Farms

6455 Monte Road (off the San Luis Bay Drive exit of Highway 101), San Luis Obispo

(702) 245-3135 or slocreekfarms.com

Hours: Apple U-Pick open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. through the end of November. Farmers market locations listed on the website.

Avila Apple Festival

The “It’s Everything Apple” Vendor Fair portion of the inaugural Avila Apple Festival is Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Avila Beach Promenade/Plaza. Admission is free, and proceeds will benefit Avila-area nonprofits. A variety of activities are planned, and the local apple growers slated to be in attendance include Gopher Glen Apple Farm, SLO Creek Farms, Kelsey Vineyards, See Canyon Fruit Ranch, Cirone Farms, Le Mieux Family Orchard and Talley Farms. For more information, go to avilaapplefestival.com.

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