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Jaycob Perez and Liam Thorne picked their first strawberries at Mellano Farm Stand in Oceanside. Photo by Tania Thorne
ColumnsJano's Garden

Where strawberries are ready to be picked or picked up

The Mellano Farm Stand has been an institution in Oceanside since 1920, as one of the foremost growers of wholesale flowers in North County. It is just one of the many large-scale farms that dot River Road, a long and winding road just off Highway 76 in Oceanside. 

The farm is less than 10 miles from downtown Oceanside or Vista and is a perfect day trip for Mother’s Day or during their regular hours, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. 

Last week when I visited the farm stand, the staff was friendly knowledgeable, and Delila gave me a personal tour and tractor ride through the fields of strawberries and ranunculus. Large fields of vegetables could be seen in the distance as well as newly constructed greenhouses that will house cold weather strawberries. 

Right now, the fields are full of large strawberries and visitors are welcome to pick with pails ranging from $10 to $15 per pail, or a $5 entry fee with your own bucket. Tractor rides are $6 per person. 

Dalilah Thorne examines a strawberry during a visit to Mellano Farm Stand on River Road in Oceanside. Photo by Tania Thorne

I felt as if I was in Upstate New York, where I had the pleasure of owning a small farmhouse and greenhouse over 10 years ago. Although I would not consider myself a farmer, my neighbors who raised cattle, dairy cows and goats taught me a great deal about the life of second- and third-generation farmers. 

I also helped to build school gardens as part of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program, so I am always delighted to visit local farms that offer hands-on experiences for children.

 I was delighted to hear from Farm Stand manager Michelle (Mellano) Castellano that the farm is offering a farm camp in June and July for children at their Oceanside location. Call (760) 517-8383 or visit mellanofarmstand.com for further details. 

And any day that families visit the farm, children can take a tractor ride around the property as well as pick strawberries! Be sure to GPS for direction to 5714 North River Road in Oceanside.

WILLIAMSON STRAWBERRY FARM

This tiny farm stand just off the Jefferson Street exit on Highway 78 in Oceanside specializes in three kinds of berries and takes reservations for special orders. 

According to Jack Williamson, one of the farm owner’s grandchildren: “We give our customers a choice of small, medium and extra-large berries with prices ranging from $7 to $8 a basket, and three packs starting at $18. The extra-large berries with stems are perfect for dipping in chocolate or for that special party desert. Our berries are picked each morning, so we can guarantee freshness.” 

Call (760) 439-1476 or stop by 2240 Ivy Road in Oceanside for details and reservations. This farm offers freshly picked berries but is not a U-Pick site.

Strawberries ripe for picking at Mellano Farm Stand in Oceanside. Photo by Delila Wiedenhoffer

CARLSBAD STRAWBERRY COMPANY

This U-PICK FARM has been a Carlsbad attraction for both locals and tourists for decades. The 25-acre farm has been cultivated by the Ukegawa family for four generations and not only sells strawberries but donates much of the produce grown on the land to the San Diego Food Bank.

The Carlsbad site is located at 1050 Cannon Road and is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is best to visit the website, www.carlsbadstrawberrycompany.com for a full list of prices.

The entry fee for general admission is $5 per adult, which includes parking, sunflower maze and use of shaded rest area. U-pick prices are $5 per person and $12 per bucket.

This year the farm is featuring an animal exhibit with Shetland sheep, Nubian goats and lots of rabbits. Children may visit the exhibit with a parent for an additional fee (not included in admission). Tractor rides are also available as well as trips to the sunflower fields. 

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and Horticulturist and teaches gardening in North County. Contact her at [email protected]