Travel Education

Farm to Mouth at Tanaka Farms, One of the Best Things to Do in Orange County, California

Updated on November 27, 2020 (originally posted on June 12th, 2016).

Working a farm field at Tanaka Farms in Irvine, can now be First World fun for the entire family or while on a date.

Just right off of the 405 in Orange County, and off the University exit, amongst the golf courses, apartments, the Taco Bell and Mazda corporate headquarters is Tanaka Farms. A farm which allows you for only $18 to get to ride around on a wooden wagon pulled by a rickety tractor for an authentic farming feel. This could be you, with our without a family, or while on a date (like I was with my girlfriend) because this is the one best things to do in Orange County, California.

That’s the rickety tractor I will be referring to.

When it Comes to Things to Do in Orange County or in Los Angeles

I bet this is the last thing people outside of California (even in California) would expect to find as a “things to see” or “things to do.” Not only that, “farming, irvine” are also two words not commonly associated with one another, especially since Irvine is surrounded by the pharmaceutical industry, well known surf brands, fast food giants, and the headquarters to several automotive companies.

Yup, that’s the wooden wagon and Stacy giving the tour which happens throughout the year. Just be sure to check their schedule before going.

Yes, This is a Guided Tour

My tour guide for this one hour tour was Stacy (she’s hidden in the black cap), and throughout the ride she points out all the types of fruits and vegetables the farm grows (most people will have a hard time identifying things since it’s not in the produce section of the local supermarket).

Sweet tasting carrots that are grown with the use of OMRI (Organic Materials Research Institute) approved pesticides which are permitted under most organic licenses.

What is Better Than a Guided Tour Where You Get to Eat Everything (The Closest Thing to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory).

Come with me…

Not only do you get to look, but you also get to eat all these veggies raw that were picked from the farm. If you don’t like raw veggies, you better get your fill of some Taco Bell Quesaritos before you get here because there’s also no tubs of Ranch dressing although you really don’t need it. 

The green beans, sweet corn, cilantro, romaine, carrots and strawberries are all da’rish’us without it (ok, not the cilantro because who eats that just by itself?).

Since it was strawberry season they’ll let you loose like a bougie farm hand to have an AYCE strawberry feast or to pick and fill one carton of strawberries to take home. For once you can pick your own food, si tu pueda pinche Americano.

Eat as many as you want, or you can pack some up in a their supplied carton.

Most of the Important Details Regarding the Tours

The Annual Schedule:

Visting Hours:
Times are typically 10am to 2pm during the summer months although you will want to check their calendar here for the exact schedule.

Produce Stand Hours:
Daily from 9 am till 5 pm.

What to Wear:
It’s a farm, dress appropriately like you’re going on a hike (since you have no clue what working on a farm is like).

Additional Notes:
No dogs or wagons are allowed due to their insurance policy.

Price for Tours

  • Adult $18, Child $18, children under 2 years old and under are free.
  • Group rates are also available.
  • Reservations available by calling (949) 653-2100 ext 204

Some of What You Will See at Tanaka Farms

30-acres of leased farm land to grow fruits and vegetables.


I Have a Personal Connection to Farming

My maternal grandparents were one of the largest farmers in Weld County, Colorado, and I remember when I was young playing on the farm (I’m glad I got to use the word “playing” versus “working” like my mom and her 6 other brothers and sisters had to do). The farm is still there, but just like the Tanaka’s, the 100+ year old farmhouse is still there, but I fear it is on the verge of being torn down. Not due to disrepair, but the further expansion of tract homes, Walmarts, bus terminals, etc.

Sweet and crisp like those snap peas.

No need to wash or cook anything… whatchu talk’n about Willis (yea 80’s reference)

I almost felt a little 80’s when it came to sushi because being told I could eat any of the vegetables, the first thing I thought was “yea, but don’t you have to cook it (steam, grill, or you know…. cook it?). After the first bite, I felt like I had been lied to all my life because you do not have to cook corn, green beans, or strawberries (just seeing if you’re paying attention).

Pick and eat or pick and pack it away in a carton. Keep in mind that the type of produce you pick will depend on the season you go.
Eating strawberries right off the stem
If you drive a Range Rover or similar vehicle, this is your spot because they have a dirt parking lot which will finally give you a chance to take your vehicle “off-road.”
They sell produce that they grow here, but they also sell produce from other farms and suppliers.
Damn pests, look at the size of that bug attacking this watermelon

This giant bug is enjoying her watermelon because Tanaka Farms is organic and pesticide-free fruits and vegetables. 

Agritourism is a major focus of Tanaka Farms, and if only my grandfather could of heard of that word.
1998 Tanaka Farms moved after land development forced them to move the 200-acre leased farming operation from Irvine Center Drive and Bake Parkway.
Corn eaten RAW!, but I should say “raawwwr” because biting into this corn was sweet and delicious.
Yes, strawberries are grown from a plant, that come from the stuff you call “the icky dirt.”
Not just fruits and vegetables are being sold at the market (so you’re not confused, jars, and other other food and kitchen accessories).
I love being able to grab and pluck veggies from where they were born.
Strawberry fields forever and ever.
A little piece of Japanese and Japanese American festivities that happen in the community.
Amazing to think this is just right off the 405 in Orange County next to a golf course

During Times of Covid at Tanaka Farms

SPECIAL NOTICE taken from the website.

Here at Tanaka Farms, the safety of our guests and employees is our top priority. With the recent news and safety concerns regarding the new novel coronavirus (COVID-19) we have taken the following precautions to ensure the safety of everyone who visits”

Effective immediately: 

  • We are sanitizing commonly used areas more often, including cashier stations, counters, and cleaning shelves when restocking products.
  • We are encouraging our team members to closely monitor their health and well-being, and encouraging them to stay home if not feeling well.
  • All employees are temperature checked each time they arrive for work.
  • All team members are following safe sanitation practices, including wearing masks, and gloves where appropriate.
  • We are placing hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes available for customer use when visiting.
  • We have installed hand sanitizer dispensers on all of our tour wagons.
  • We have reduced the capacity of our tour wagons to give guests more space to practice social distancing.
  • We are encouraging our customers to follow the CDC’s suggested hygiene practices to reduce the spread of the virus.
  • We recommend that our customers also practice safe food handling at home.
  • For the safety of our team, and in line with CDC guidelines, we ask that you please wear a cloth face covering, or mask, when using our Drive-Thru service. Our team will also be wearing masks to protect you. 😷

We plan to remain open for business, so that our local community can still have access to locally and responsibly grown produce. 

We appreciate your business and continued support. Please stay safe, and we look forward to seeing you out at Tanaka Farms soon.

Photos Description: Yea, this is where strawberries come from. Rows of strawberry plants with a tractor in the background.
Yea, this is where strawberries come from, not from the strawberry fairy or stork.

Not Just an Attraction, but a Piece of American and Japanese American History

It kills me to think that my mom’s farmhouse, the tree she played on, the barn I played in, along with all the history will be torn down, and I vow that before the end of the year, I will contact the necessary agencies in Colorado to try and save it.

Tanaka Farms

5380 3/4 University Dr
Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 653-2100

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