Will Work For Pie: How to Be a Farmhand on Pie Ranch

I can honestly say that I never dreamed of working on a farm until recently. It’s just really not the kind of job that held any appeal to me until I became lost in the books I’m currently reading. As I’m staring out my apartment at a parking lot full of cars, being surrounded by trees, flowers, and beautiful patches of vegetables sounds like paradise. So when the Bay Area Dietetic Association planned a farm work day on Pie Ranch, I was all for escaping the concrete jungle in favor of getting my hands a little dirty. Plus, there was pie.

After a beautiful drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, we arrived at Pie Ranch ready to be farmhands for the day. After a nice walk through the fields, we met with a farmer’s apprentice who described our work goals for the day. The ranch’s orchard was in dire need of weeding and mulching, so we put on our work gloves, picked up our hoes and shovels, and set to work.

Pie Ranch (so named because of it’s triangular shape) is located along the San Mateo coast and has been a working farm since 2005. What makes Pie Ranch different is its commitment to educating youth and the public on the importance of food systems and organic farming. In fact, Pie Ranch currently collaborates with high schools from urban, suburban, and rural settings to provide summer programs for students to work the farm, learn about agriculture, and hopefully walk away with a love for food and where it comes from. On top of these youth programs, Pie Ranch also offers one year farming apprenticeships to budding farmers and fully immerses them in all aspects of farming–from growing, to operations, and management.

On top of their educational programs, Pie Ranch also opens its door to the public to allow every day people a chance to become a farmhand for a day through their work programs. Our group jumped at the chance to do a little pruning in exchange for a tour of their beautiful grounds–and also a taste of their wonderful pie.

If pulling weeds is not your things but beautiful vegetables are, you are in luck. Pie Ranch also has a food education and cooking classes in their outdoor kitchen and boasts an adorable roadside farmstand for passersby to stop in for fresh fruit, vegetables, and–of course–pie. Oh, and the occasional barn dance. Yes, I said barn dances. I’m already planning my return because this is something I have to see.

After an afternoon spent digging up deep-rooted weeds and pushing a wheelbarrow of mulch, I had a new appreciation for the farm workers that do this backbreaking work every day. It’s easy for us city slickers to walk into a grocery store and buy a pear without ever thinking of the tree, the dirt, and the hands that picked it. Getting back to the roots of where my food comes from–literally–gave me a new outlook and admiration for the people who do the hard work to keep us fed.