Agriculture and hospitality are the top two industries in Monterey County. It’s no wonder that Evan Oakes has decided to blend the two for a successful combination. Evan is the mastermind behind the 15-year old business Ag Venture Tours, which is the only one of its kind in California. After reading rave reviews of his tours on TripAdvisor I decided that I had to experience the adventure for myself. Ag Venture Tours offers several tour options including wine tasting tours, agricultural education tours, sightseeing tours and family friendly tours. In order to get the complete experience I opted for the full day agricultural education tour which also included two wine tastings. How could I resist? AgVenture Tour Evan picked me up promptly at 9:45am. Once the other eager passengers were on board, he dove into the educational aspect of the tour. As we traveled north on Highway One to our first stop Evan discussed the importance of agriculture not only to Monterey County but to the world. Monterey County is home to the most valuable agricultural land on the planet and is responsible for 80% of the world’s lettuce and 95% of the artichokes consumed in the United States. Pezzini Artichokes in Castroville Speaking of artichokes, the first stop was at Pezzini Farms off Highway One in Castroville. As a local, I frequent the farm stand for my fix of the delicious thistle but I must admit that I never paid attention to how they are grown. Evan took us through the Pezzini artichoke field and discussed how the climate in Castroville is perfect for the plant, which tend to thrive in cool and moist conditions. Evan Oakes demonstrates how to cook an artichoke Once inside the farm stand Evan displayed how to prepare and eat artichokes. This was important for the group members not familiar with the California-dominated cuisine. Harvesting Iceberg lettuce Next we saw a farm crew in full harvest mode. This particular field was in the middle of an iceberg lettuce harvest. Each head of lettuce is handpicked using a special flat knife. The field crew harvests and packs the lettuce in the field before the lettuce heads to a cooler and then to your local grocery store. Ken discusses the strawberry growing process Our next stop was a strawberry farm in Salinas Valley. We met up with Ken, the berry farmer. Ken told us that strawberries are the most valuable commodity grown in Monterey County. The Salinas Valley has the longest strawberry harvest of any place in the world, going from March through December. After admiring the plump and juicy crop we were able to taste the fresh fruit, which did not disappoint! Pessagno Wine Tasting Room It was mid-day and we were ready for our picnic lunch at the Pessagno Winery off of River Road in Salinas, but first it was time for a wine tasting! Pessagno offered up 5 fantastic tastings of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah and Port. As a follow-up to our hefty dose of wine Evan had arranged a picnic lunch of sandwiches, potato salad, chips, cookies and fruit out on the patio overlooking the valley. It was just enough fuel for the next wine tasting at Talbott Vineyards. Evan Oakes discusses the grape growing process at Talbott Talbott’s new tasting room is located at their Sleepy Hollow vineyard and winery on River Road (Talbott also has a tasting room in Carmel Valley Village). Before we got our hands on some wine, Evan took us on a vineyard walk where he discussed the grape growing process for the 50,000 acres of vineyards in the Salinas Valley. I found it interesting that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals tend to do the best. You could tell Evan knew what he was talking about (he has a degree in viticulture). Talbott Wine Tasting Room Finally, time to taste! Talbott offered three different wines from both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals. The 2009 Kali Hart Chardonnay was my favorite with a fruity and almost pineapple taste. Unfortunately it was finally time to pack up and head back to Monterey. I arrived back at my starting point at 4pm. Not bad for a productive day out on the farm! For more information on Ag Venture Tours and their tour schedule visit http://agventuretours.com or call 831-761-8463.