Like Family at Naylor Organic FarmsMay 26, 2018 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema
By Jordan Venema
Photos by Monica Fatica
ABOUT FIVE MILES southwest of Dinuba and seven miles southeast of Kingsburg is a plot of land farmed by Mike Naylor, a fourth-generation farmer of this rich Central Valley soil.
“My great grandfather immigrated here,” says Naylor, who farms 40 acres of the land his father purchased in 1963. Naylor grew up on the farm, but he laughs at the idea that he never left.
“Heck yeah I got away from it!” he exclaims, adding that he worked a spell for the fire department until he realized he preferred to be his own boss, and so he returned to the farm in 1979.
Not long after his return, Naylor’s Organic Farm transitioned fully to organic in 1984, and has been ever since.
Naylor’s Organic focuses on a variety of stone fruit, especially peaches, nectarines and apricots, “and a few blackberries that we use for our u-pick,” he says. But you’ll find no vegetables on the farm, since Naylor describes harvesting the greens as knuckle dragging.
“Yeah, it’s all stone fruit,” he laughs. “I don’t like to bend over to work.”
Naylor has dedicated 40 acres to stone fruit for u-pick, while the rest of the farm’s land he leases out, which is really the way for many small farms, which are leasing acreage to larger farms in order to survive.
Though Naylor’s Organic Farm is an exception, Naylor says, “Small farms in this area are disappearing real fast. Paperwork kills small farmers; we don’t like it. Plus, our kids are smarter than we were. There are very few sons or daughters coming back into the business.”
Like other small farms, Naylor and his wife Nori have expanded their u-pick to include ecotourism. The goal is not just to introduce others to their farm but also to conserve a way of life important to the valley.
“We are hoping to preserve the farm as long as possible,” Nori agrees.
In addition to cultivating the land, the Naylors also introduced a farm stay, offering multiple rooms that range from $75 to $159 a night, varying with the season. But don’t worry, the Naylors don’t put their guests to work.
“It was actually Mike’s idea,” says Nori about the farm stay. “He’s the visionary, and I did the grunt work to get that going,” she says with a laugh, referring to social media.
“For two of the rooms we offer a breakfast that Mike and I prepare ourselves,” Nori continues. “Breakfast is our favorite meal of the day, and we love sitting down with our guests and having conversation. We want them to feel like family.”
In fact, Nori describes herself and her husband as just a couple of grandparents.
“Grandma and Grandpa,” she says. “So if you need anything, just ask.”
Mike and Nori work the farm themselves, beside those visitors who come for the u-pick, and of course the guests who are welcome to pick fruit for themselves in addition to the bowl of fresh fruit provided during the farm stay. Plus, guests are welcome to a tour of the farm from Mike.
“I’m a storyteller,” he says. “So I tell stories, and I know a lot of the natural history of the valley. It just depends on the person’s interest, whether that’s the history of the farm, the valley, how things are grown, and I’ll make up lines for the things I don’t know.”
Other than being entertained and educated by a personal tour guide, guests might be greeted by Penny, the Naylors’ 14-year-old Vizsla.
Ultimately, a trip to Naylor’s Organic Farm is an opportunity to get away and discover the wealth of the Central Valley, and to learn about the small farms that make the area so agriculturally prosperous.
But the reality, says Nori, “is that so many people had never set foot on a farm, or don’t know where their food comes from, or how it gets to the grocery store. So we want to offer people an opportunity to come to a real working farm and see what it’s like.”
“That is the absolute best part,” she continues. “Especially when families come. We really want to encourage a family experience, and it’s so fun to watch, and often it’s the parents that are more excited than the kids.”
A conversation with adopted grandparents – for a night, anyway – and eat a peach directly from the tree. •
Naylor’s Organic Farm Stay • 38918 Road 64, Dinuba
(559) 824-0811 • www.naylorsorganicfarmstay.comFind them on Facebook and on Instagram @naylororganicsupick