September 03, 2019
You just have to meet FarmHer Emma Riley and her amazing family…so let me introduce you! Emma was suggested through our website and her story jumped out at me. A young girl who grew up on a working farm that provides an amazing agritourism destination for southern California! In fact, the Riley’s run the largest orchard in southern CA, leasing 360 acres from a conservancy. They are surrounded by family and each person plays a role in the operation. Emma is in charge of the horses, giving carriage rides to the thousands of visitors who visit their farm each weekend. She also has taken to using the draft horses to break ground and has planted a large garden using the horsepower.
When I arrive at Riley’s at Los Rios Ranchos it was hard not to be impressed. I could see there were a lot of moving parts around me - from the orchards to the store and even a BBQ restaurant on site. There were already buses rolling in, with streams of excited kids coming off. I have to say I felt pretty giddy myself just to see what the day had in store. I met Emma by the store and we quickly started our day. She led me down to where she had the draft horses tied up and started pulling out the heavy equipment to hook them up for some plowing. She explained that she had worked with the horses since she was young. They were her area of expertise and a few years ago she decided to add plowing and growing food to her arm of the business. In addition to working at the farm multiple days a week Emma is also pursuing a degree in plant science at Cal Poly, so the garden seemed like the perfect fit. So, she set about collecting some (very) old equipment. She got the horses hooked up and with a little help, led them down to the field and hooked them to the plow. I had never seen anything quite like it! Emma took off, handling the horses with skill, leaving behind a fresh trail of Earth mounded up behind them. It was absolutely mesmerizing.
Once the plowing was done it was time to hook the horses up to the carriage for one of Emma’s legendary tours. A whole bunch of family piled in the back and we were off. She led us up through the orchards, explaining that they grow many varieties and that the family runs a You-Pick operation for the apples and other fruits they grow. She said on busy summer weekend they will have thousands of visitors at the farm! Her tour led us right back down to where we started and there we met her sister Bekah who heads up the events side of the business. They told us that the family hosts all kinds of events at the farm from historic dinners to valentines parties and lots of weddings. They happened to mention that the whole family gathers up at those events and shares another talent of theirs - they make music together in their family band!
To round out the day we got a behind the scenes tour of the kitchen and saw one of their famous apple pies being made - it has FIVE POUNDS of apples in each pie! Emma’s mother heads up the restaurant and makes the mouth-watering tri-tip beef. She served us up a few of their specialties including an apple-bacon grilled cheese, tri-tip sandwich, apple slaw, and some warm corn bread. It was clear that I could add cooking to the Riley’s impressive lineup.
With the day nearly done, the family gathered up outside where I was in for one more treat…quite possibly my favorite, a small show. From the tiniest ones to the eldest, everyone played their instruments, bursting with pride. Emma’s sweet voice and rhythmic fiddle rose above the rest as I finished up my day with a young FarmHer and her family at Los Rios Ranchos.
September 06, 2019
Loved this episode!!! This family is an example of what makes America GREAT!
I want Emma’s hat. Where can I get one? Thanks and God’s blessings to you!
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