Down in Pescadero along the windy coastal Highway 1, a small organic farm is spicing up how people are connected with their food by organizing monthly work days before a family-friendly old-fashioned barn dance. The tradition started the year after Pie Ranch was founded in 2006. “We thought that combining a work party with a barn dance on a monthly basis would be a wonderful way to build community in the area and had no idea how popular they would become! Our band, the County Line Pickers, is a mix of folks from the area,” says Nancy Vail founder of Pie Ranch.

A few years later, the event has become a must for local families who hang out on the farm doing simple chores in the afternoon and share a meal at sundown before some heart-pumping square dancing in the roadside barn. With kid-friendly hours and a no-alcohol policy, this gig is your ultimate key into Old McDonald’s world – with some skipping, clapping, and galloping.

Ready to show your kids how it’s done on the farm? Here is what you need to know about the hottest barn dance ticket down the coast.

When to go: Every third Saturday of each month. The next dates in 2011 are November 19 and December 17.

How to get there: Pie Ranch is located at 2080 Cabrillo Highway in Pescadero, Ca. Click here for directions from different areas.

What to bring and wear: Pie Ranch suggests that you bring water bottles, layers of clothing, sunscreen, closed toe shoes, sunhats, and your own dishes and utensils for the potluck. You may also want to bring a snack for your apprentice toddler farmer and tools and work gloves for the farm work (although they have gloves and tools for you to use, too).

What to do: Work Day and Barn Dance at Pie Ranch has activities from simple farm chores with the family to kicking your heels on the dance floor of the roadside barn. No matter what you choose, there’s plenty of activities for all to enjoy!

Work Day: People gather at 1:00 pm for the Work Day part of the afternoon and sign up for specific tasks. No sweat if junior is not ready to pull out strawberry beds just yet, young children can have fun outside next to their parents while Ma and Pa do all the heavy lifting. Kids love to play on the farm, there’s so much to see. The Work Day stops at 3:00 pm.

Farm tour: After the farm work, your family can join an optional farm tour where farm staff will talk about the history of the farm, the animals, the crops, and take you on a gentle walk on flat terrain and rolling hills. The cost is $5 per person.

Potluck dinner: Yay for the slow coast! At 5:00 pm people gather in front of the roadside barn and set their dishes on long wooden tables outside. This is when you should arrive if you’ve missed the afternoon part. You’ll get to meet people, taste scrumptious dishes, and fuel up before the dance. Kids can roam around and discover the barn surroundings. Dishes that work well include pasta dishes, bread and cheese, dips and veggies, and cold meat plates.

Barn dance: At last! From 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm the barn dance is truly the cherry on the cake at Pie Ranch. As you walk into the rustic working barn, admire the wooden floors and walls, herbs drying from the rafters, and make a note (for down time) of a few farm toys in the corner for tykes next to a nice seating area. The western end features the band and the caller, and the rest of the barn is wholly dedicated to the dance floor. Fiddles start dueling away while kids and adults line up waiting for dancing instructions from caller Andy Wilson. Let the dancing begin!

Cost: The farm tour is $5. The dance is $7-20, children under 12 are free (with parents). Workday participants pay a discounted rate of $5-15. If you are coming with 7 or more people, advance notice is required.

Phone: 650-879-0995


— Laure Latham