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Pick Your Own : Bring your produce list and be prepared to enjoy getting your hands dirty.


An abundance of fresh produce can be plucked off the shelves at any of Ventura County's grocery stores. But maybe you are one of those folks who likes the idea of pulling your next meal right out of the earth.

And if the hustle and bustle of today keeps you from enjoying your own garden, don't worry. These hands-on pleasantries still exist.

Welcome to Tierra Rejada Ranch in Moorpark.

What differentiates this family operation from most other Ventura County roadside produce outlets is how its produce gets harvested.

No high-tech harvesting machinery is used here. Just a gentle yank, pull or twist with a purposeful grip will do. And not by a small force of farmhands, either. If you've come to Tierra Rejada Ranch with a produce list, be prepared to get your hands dirty while completing the order.

Starting Saturday, the "you-pick" offerings--including beets, carrots, chard, lettuce, turnips and blackberries--will be available at Tierra Rejada Ranch.

"We have been closed since near the end of December," proprietor Rick Brecunier said. Choose-and-cut Christmas trees were the last commodity offered before the ranch closed for the winter.

Since then, Brecunier has been getting ready for the June opener.

"During the time we're closed," he said, "we're out doing all the things necessary to get the crops ready."

The crops are small, tidy rows of produce that even the most unskilled harvester will find picker-friendly.

"It's more like a big garden than it is farm," Brecunier said.

About 25 acres of produce are designated "you pick."

Brecunier staggers the planting of his produce to ensure that customers are offered fully grown, ready-to-pick produce each week. While you-pickers are working over a row of beets one week, another row is reaching its peak.

"Our big thing when we open will be blackberries," he said. "The kind I grow is the olalliberry, which is a cross between a youngberry and a loganberry."

Fruits and vegetables that grow best during the summer are what you'll find at Tierra Rejada Ranch. For good reason.

"We don't try to grow winter crops," Brecunier said, "primarily because we only offer you-pick and it's just too muddy for the customers to get out in the field during the winter."

It seems some of the ranch's visitors come for more than just the palate-pleasing produce.

Brecunier said that during the week the ranch is frequented by a "well-established base" out just for the vegetables. "During the weekend," he said, "the kids get into it. It's a recreational thing.

"We get people up from L.A. that are looking for a country experience. They'll walk around, maybe bring a picnic, and just enjoy the atmosphere." (Pony rides are available for children).

And if by chance you don't find the vegetable you came for, you might want to suggest to Brecunier that he grow it. He's been persuaded before.

"The only reason I planted the turnips was because some of our customers requested the turnip greens," he said.

Sweet-toothed you-pickers can look forward to the apricots and peaches that will arrive in the summer. Also at the stand for sale--but not for picking--will be watermelon, sweet corn, Valencia oranges and avocados.

The stand, at 3370 Moorpark Road, will be open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.

"We supply the baskets and trays, and everything is sold by weight," Brecunier said. "And there's no minimum amount--pick whatever you need."

You can call Tierra Rejada Ranch at 529-3690.

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