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PHOTOS: Berry Picking at Gizdich Ranch

Watsonville's favorite berry farm draws visitors from far and wide.

We recently spent an afternoon at . To be honest, it was the allure of a Volkswagen van rally—not the pies, berries and fresh-pressed juice—that drew us to agriculture tourist hot spot.

The rally had been canceled, a bummer for us because we were hoping for inspiration on the restoration of our 1971 bus (, Nos. 48 and 49).

Although I've been out to Gizdich a couple of times, neither my boyfriend nor a college pal visiting from Oregon had been to the ranch. It was entertaining to see their surprise at the elaborate tourism operation. It was mid-day on a Sunday and even without the VW buses, Gizdich was hopping. Familes filled the picnic areas and the line for pie a la mode stretched out the barn doors.

We split a jug of icy apple juice before heading out to the olallieberry U-pick field to fill a few buckets. The picking was good. We loaded 10 pounds berries into our bus pretty quick. Around us, parents methodically gathered the fruit while kids smushed the purple-red berries into their mouths.

Gizdich Ranch has excelled at agri-tourism, a business model that melds traditional farming with value-added products and services. The ranch includes a gift shop, antique store and pie restaurant. Last summer, the farm was featured in a New York Times article about the profits that can be reaped through agri-tourism. For more on the offerings at Gizdich, visit the website.

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