The Farm was recently mentioned in Vacation Idea’s Web Magazine as one of the best thing to do in Bakersfield!
“Murray Family Farms are a delightful mix fun and a true family working farm. Bring the kids for a lot of fun, but also to see all the hard work involved in bringing delicious fruits and veggies to their local groceries…”
Take a look at the article and be sure to come by and see what all the commotion is about!
The commonalty between Walt Disney and the Murrays lies in the source of joy they have created for families. The bonus is the Murrays are truly nice people.
By Howard Gibson – Kern County Valley Ag Voice
Agritourism is defined simply as an agriculturally based operation that brings visitors to a farm or ranch. Here in Kern County we have one of our state’s more successful operations, the local family owned, Murray Family Farms. The diverse agritourism operation offers everything from on-site bakeries, hay wagon rides and other family activities to the public with direct access their many varieties of fresh-picked and u-pick fruit. About 200 varieties of fruits plus a wide variety of veggies are grown on the farm and are available in sequence year-round. Their retail stores offer fresh produce, snacks and gift items. Seasonal favorites include numerous varieties of cherries, blueberries, has two locations: a 42-acre fruit farm on Hwy 58 and a 70-acre fruit and vegetable farm on Interstate 5. They refer to these locations as the “southern gateways to California’s Central Valley.” Murray Family Farms, which was established more than 24 years ago, strawberries, blackberries, stone fruit, apples, citrus, artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, melons and pumpkins. As Steve Murray reminded us, “It really opens the eyes of the kids for them to be able to come and experience a real farm with this kind of variety.” The Murrays have also expanded in more recent years to offer their products from within their “Big Red Barn.” Customers come to the Barn year round to shop for produce, prepared foods, preserves, fresh baked pies and fruit smoothies. “Okie Fry Pies” are a trademarked signature feature at the farm.
“We opened the Big Red Barn over five years ago and we’ve been selling fruits and vegetables in there ever since. It’s always been our dream to have this cool little restaurant here that serves meals with homemade deserts and now we have it. It’s taken years to get all the permits but we are very pleased with the results.” Steve Murray said. Guided tours on tractor-drawn hay wagon rides showcase the business’s 43 acres of farm crops, and participants can sample by picking. Stops are made along the way to observe farming activities and collect customers who’ve stopped to pick their own fruit. “Picking local fruit that is fresh and ripe increases value. Ours is no comparison to the dry, flavorless fruit found at big box retail stores. We find customers are willing to travel farther and pay maybe a little more for fresh and ripe local fruit”, said Vickie Murray. Besides the fun of finding and picking their own fruit, the children are always drawn to the petting zoo, bounce pillow, butterfly house, wagon rides, cattle train, mazes, and picnic area. The farm’s petting zoo includes goats, sheep, ducks, geese, chickens and a little more exotic fare for a farm, such as pigeons, miniature horses, peacocks and even turkeys.
Speaking of children, yearly they have more than 10,000 school kids come for tours and leave with berries in the spring or pumpkins in the fall. They’re also a main stop for tour buses, which bring people from all over the world. In addition to their direct market activities at their two farm stores, the Murrays pack and sell their world famous cherries and berries through wholesale outlets. The farm works directly with Prima Frutta Packing, Warmerdam Packing and Hurst Berry, who are responsible for their wholesale sales. They pack and ship the farm’s fruit domestically and internationally to Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan, among other countries. “Fond memories grown ripe here” is Murray Family Farm’s official slogan. In addition, the Murray family and their employees spread out, traveling to 28 certified farmers’ markets during the peak cherry and berry season.
Currently, Murray hosts Octoberfest which they first launched ten years ago. it’s a Halloween, family-friendly style Octoberfest, with lots of Octoberthemed activities complete with hay rides, corn mazes, pumpkin patches and food to enjoy too. There are also homemade desserts including pies and cookies for fall. October, which was Murray’s slowest month, is now its most popular.
“What it does is it helps cash flow us into winter months,” Steve Murray said. “In our farming operation we have a lot of employees and this gets us the cash that helps us meet the payroll. It’s literally pumpkins for payroll.” The benefits to the local economy are significant. Located in the
Lamont-Arvin area, Murray Family Farms provides year-round employment to an economically disadvantaged region. Dollars are collected from export and domestic customers, coastal cities and interstate travelers, and paid to the local labor force. Value added agriculture provides 10 times more employment per acre than conventional agriculture. While most agricultural employment is seasonal and repetitive in nature, these full and part-time jobs offer training in customer service, use of cash registers, public speaking, entertainment, education, hospitality, clerical, culinary arts, and intensive dynamic horticulture. The Murrays turned to agritourism as a diversification strategy, but it has risks of its own. “Agritourism eats up all of your available cash and then soaks up all of your profits in continuous upgrades, new venues and infra-structure,” Steve said. More than 75 percent of the farm’s income comes from international sales through the packing houses and interstate travelers at the fruit stands. The farm also brings in dollars from farmers’ markets in southern California and the coast. More than 75 percent of its expenses go to local employees that live in a seriously distressed economy, Steve said. Besides the approximately 66 full-time employees needed for winter work, as many as 660 are present during peak cherry harvest, 600 of whom are contracted pickers. But the enterprise could get by with just four full-time employees if agritourism weren’t part of the operation. Agritourism customers consist of local residents, school children and tourists. There are tours for college students and faculty. Both Bakersfield College and California State Polytechnic University participate. Additionally the farm is involved in 28 farmers’ markets. This month Chevron gas pumps are being installed at the Hwy. 58 location to help offset increasing labor costs. Steve would also like to expand into a Community Supported Agricultural program to bring our fresh, local produce directly to the customer. As he said; “We want to continue to grow, reach out, and give back to our community.” For more information, call Vickie at 661-330-0101.
The Bakersfield Californian – May 8, 2013
By Stefani Dias
With so much going on this weekend, you really need to cherry-pick your activities. Luckily, Murray Family Farms makes that easy with its second annual Cherry Festival.
“(Cherries are) something that everybody is drawn to,” said Abel Varela, produce supervisor at Murray Family Farms. “You say cherry and people say, ‘Where are they?’ … Cherries remind them of their childhood.”
On Saturday, prepare to celebrate all things cherry with a variety of fruit and sweets, a seed-spitting contest, entertainment and more. The only thing you won’t be able to do is pick your own cherries — but they’re working on it.
“On our property, we bring cherries in (from our other location on Copus Road). We’re growing trees to pick. It’ll be about another year to mature. They’re 2-year-old trees; it’s a minimum three years (to maturity).”
Like those trees, the festival is continuing to grow, with organizers moving it up to reflect the season.
“Cherries came into season about a week and half ago. Last year we had it later, in late May. We want to have it earlier (this year), bring in more people. We wanted to get people excited about cherries.”
Even later in the season, last year’s turnout was impressive, according to media coordinator Jennifer Smith, who counted 1,000 attendees.
A variety of cherries will be offered for tastings, including Minnie Royal, Royal Rainier, Flavor Giant, Champagne Coral, Brooks, Tulare, Sequoia and GG1.
To further tempt visitors, the Cal-Okie Kitchen will serve a sweet selection of cherry dishes: brownies, pies, cobblers, muffins, scones, cake, nut fudge, ice cream and cherry lemonade smoothies.
The bounty extends to the entertainment with employee Andrew Carrillo performing acoustic folk music as Andrew’s Royalties. Murray tour guide and resident artist Mimi Ramos will also perform along with her Latin dance group.
Regular farm fun will also be in full effect with the giant jumping pillow, hayrides, kids’ play area and petting zoo.
If you want to help provide the entertainment, join the seed-spitting contest, which was a popular show last year.
“The winner of last year’s (contest) spit 18 to 20 feet,” Varela said. “We had a 12-foot marker and they spit way over that.”
The Bakersfield Californian – May 7, 2013
By James Burger
Sunday’s fierce, day-long wind storm hit Kern County’s stone fruit and almond growers hard over the weekend — stripping cherries, peaches and plums off trees, ripping through almond orchards and uprooting thousands of the shallow-rooted trees.
The blow to almond growers, who produce Kern County’s second-largest crop, could be a major, long-term handicap.
It isn’t uncommon to lose some almond trees to the wind, said Glenn Fankhauser, a deputy director with the Kern County Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards. The trees have shallow roots. When they are heavy with almonds, they are vulnerable to being blown down.
But Sunday’s wind was a big one. It came from the wrong direction and did more damage than usual, he said.
Almond growers plant their trees so that they angle into the prevailing winds. But Sunday’s wind came from the opposite direction, blowing at the trees where they were weak.
A single almond orchard lost 1,500 trees over the weekend, Fankhauser said.
Almonds are a $727 million business in Kern County, he said. It can take years — as much as a decade — to get a new tree into production.
“It’s a really big disaster for one of our biggest crops, Fankhauser said.
Cherry growers were also unhappy, especially because the wind and rain followed a week of hot temperatures that had pushed the fruit to the edge of harvest.
Many growers had plans to harvest this week, and they were taking extreme measures Monday and Tuesday to protect the crops and get crews in to the orchards to pick.
“If you talk to a cherry grower it’s a big deal,” Fankhauser said.
Greg Wegis of Wegis Ranch, who farms 2,000 acres west of Wasco, said he didn’t see as much damage to his almond crop — though he heard growers to the south and east around Arvin had been hit hard.
But he was worrying about his cherry crop.
Wind blew some fruit off the trees and causing bruising on remaining cherries. But the rain, so close to harvest, threatens to split the fruit, Wegis said.
He had planned to start his harvest this week.
“They’re just turning red. We were going to start today,” Wegis said Tuesday. “We’re trying to blow the water off them.”
So far, the weekend weather has made a small to moderate impact on him.
Grower Steve Murray, of Murray Family Farms, said much of his cherry crop was protected because he invested in windbreaks for his orchards.
But the wet weather has caused him problems as well.
Murray said he was using helicopters to air out his cherries and was able to pick on Monday and Tuesday.
The Ranier variety of cherries — a blush-colored fruit that was nearing harvest — is estimated to have taken a 40 percent to 50 percent loss, according to Fankhauser.
Murray said that high fruit loss could trigger some growers to abandon their crops on the trees because the cost to pick would outweigh the value of the fruit in the packing house.
The full damage to other varieties of cherries won’t be known until harvest is complete. Wind bruising and abrasion is harder to see on the darker fruit of those varieties, he said.
Murray said that in most cases the fruit will be picked and taken to the packing house, but the turnouts could be reduced.
With Kern County’s cherry crop valued at an estimated $227 million, Fankhauser said, the economic impact from the weekend wind could be substantial.
Kern County’s peach and plum crops, each valued at $11 million, could also see significant damage. But, as with cherries, growers will need to wait to find out where they stand.