Omar Estrada of Friends' Ranches

Rachel Hommel

Omar Estrada of Friends' Ranches

Omar Estrada of Friends’ Ranches

Growing Sweet and Tangy Citrus in the Ojai Valley

Name: Omar Estrada

Farm: Friends’ Ranches

Location: 15150 Maricopa Hwy., Ojai, CA 93023

What they grow: Though famous for pixie tangerines, their seasonal citrus also includes several more varieties of tangerines, tangelos, mandarins, lemons, limes, clementines, oranges, grapefruits, and even their own orange blossom and wildflower honey. Seasonal juices are also sold, from tangerine to blood orange.

Where to buy: Farmers markets including Saturday in downtown Santa Barbara and Sunday in Ojai. Additionally, customers can visit the ranch, which offers orchard tours, as well as an open market every Tuesday and Friday, 7 a.m.-noon.

In season now: Hachiya persimmons, pomegranates, pineapple guavas (feijoas), limes, Meyer lemons, Lee tangerines, Clementine mandarins, Satsuma mandarins, and tangy lemonade and orange juice.

Their story: Growing up on the ranch, Omar Estrada and his family have spent the last 100 years cultivating the rich farm land on their 100-acre orchard in the Ojai Valley. For more than 30 years, they have been bringing fresh juice and citrus to the farmers market.

“I love living on the land, it’s so peaceful and quiet,” said Estrada. “You feel isolated, just yourself and the open space.”

Using no sprays or pesticides, the orchard enjoys nature’s best pollinators, their vast collection of local bees. Pollinating their well-known citrus, the ranch was even featured in Sunset Magazine, gaining popularity for the Ojai Valley and their orchard tours.

“We are probably most well-known for our pixies — they are so sweet and flavorful,” said Estrada. “My personal favorite are the blood oranges, they have a much stronger flavor and great for juicing.”

Picking the fruit fresh daily, the fruit is tree-ripened to perfection, offering a tasty and healthy option for customers. Offering guests a seasonal fruit chart, you can always guarantee something tasty will be in season.

“I love working the markets,” said Estrada. “Socializing and meeting people, it’s really fun.”

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