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Orange Crush

Get Involved With Your Local Farm at Farmer Bob’s World…

In Farmer Bob’s world, a day at McKellar Family Farms means more than fun. It’s also an opportunity to learn about the process an orange goes through to get from tree to table.

“He loves the whole lifestyle of being in the country and agriculture,” says Elaine Brown of her boss, Robert “Bob” McKellar, 89. McKellar’s family purchased the land he farms and opened to the public as a nonprofit organization in 1927. “He’s committed to getting people involved in knowing what’s involved in a small farm or a farm in general,” she adds. “You can see him light up when he sees people getting it. And you only get it when you experience it.”

Photos courtesy of McKellar Family Farms

McKellar Family Farms is a working citrus farm, and Farmer Bob’s World is an educational experience dedicated to sharing the ins and out of the industry with the public. It includes informative displays, a John Deere tractor-pulled wagon ride through the orchards and a chance to pick a few oranges to take home. “All the five senses are involved,” says Brown, community outreach and tour coordinator.

The organization is fundraising to add even more interactive exhibits that will open in 2022, including a wind tunnel and water elements. Visitors have come from around the world, including delegations from Germany and Korea, and as close as local Future Farmers of America chapters and the World Ag Expo. Regardless of origin, McKellar and his team want to make sure everyone is aware that the California citrus industry is a billion-dollar business with many avenues for meaningful careers. “The orange industry is called the second Gold Rush in California,” adds Brown. To learn about it at Farmer Bob’s World, “you have it in the context of a family experience.”

Photos courtesy of McKellar Family Farms

There are lessons to be learned about science, water, history, pest management and more, and they are all developed in an engaging and fun way. There are nine stops on the wagon tour, which takes 40 minutes. “There’s an eight-minute kid-tested video of the citrus industry that has the last two minutes using a webcam to follow an orange through its process. It’s very engaging and fun,” Brown says.

McKellar Family Farms is also home to Historic Seven Sycamores Ranch across the street, a lovely wedding venue with AirBnB. The grounds were developed by McKellar’s parents; he was the first to get married there.

Brown was introduced to McKellar and the Farmer Bob’s World tour experience when she was a second-grade teacher and brought her class on a field trip. Everyone had a wonderful experience and Brown’s students spent time creating beautiful thank you letters for their host. McKellar then came to Brown’s class to accept the letters and ended up talking and listening to the students sing “America, the Dream Goes On.” “It was just too special,” says Brown. “He came in and got to see what I did. The kids did a good job.”

Photos courtesy of McKellar Family Farms

Once she found out McKellar and her father had gone to school together as children in Ivanhoe, Brown was even more in awe. She volunteered at a farm-to-table fundraiser the organization held and eventually transitioned out of classroom education to her work for McKellar. “I get paid to be mentored by a brilliant mind,” she says. “I call him the Grand Man of agriculture, and he is.”

For his part, the Grand Man writes in his autobiographical statement, “Living and working on a farm is an exciting, sometimes joyful, sometimes sad experience and I believe it has made me a better person.” He invites you to come see for yourself what it’s all about.

Farmer Bob’s World at McKellar Family Farms | www.farmerbobsworld.com

About Melissa Mendonca

Melissa is a graduate of San Francisco State and Tulane universities. She’s a lover of airports and road trips and believes in mentoring and service to create communities everyone can enjoy. Her favorite words are rebar, wanderlust and change.

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