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'Discover Your Own Backyard'

Saturday is the Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Open House.

Praising the agrotoursim opportunities in the Pajaro Valley, Congressman Sam Farr kicked off the annual Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Open House Friday afternoon at Kitayama Brothers nursery on San Andreas Road.

Farr encouraged people to "discover your own backyard."

"We're inventing a new tourism here," he said. "I think the potential of growing this ... is just unlimited. All we have to do is provide access and interpretation."

The family-friendly and free greenhouse tours run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at seven farms in Watsonville and North Monterey County.

The open greenhouses include: cut flower growers Kitayama Brothers and California Pajarosa; culinary herb grower Jacobs Farms; California Floral Greens, which produces cut greens; stater plant grower Star Farms; Rocket Farms, which cultivates potted plants and veggies; and Succulent Gardens, a potted plant grower. 

At Friday's ribbon-cutting event, Farr talked about the importance of promoting local agriculture and being proud of the farming tradition on the Central Coast. A recent New York Times article highlighted agrotourism and even mentioned a Watsonville farm, .

Nursery and cut flower sales in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties is about $437 million annually, Farr said.

"These farms really have a lot to share," said Kasey Cronquist, CEO of the California Cut Flower Commission, adding that consumers are interested in local products and supporting farmers in their region.

"We've been groing stuff in this valley for many years without saying much," said Stuart Kitayma of Kitayma Brothers, a fresh-cut flower grower.

Saturday's event will give people a chance to see first-hand how local greenhouse growers operate. Visitors can see plants in various stages of growth, learn about growing techniques and other aspects of the farm.

About 600 people attended last year. Cronquist said he expected upwards of 1,000 this year.

People also can buy fresh flowers, plants and vegetables at each greenhouse. Some of the proceeds benefit Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, an organization that supports the county's many state parks.

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