For more than 28 years, the Yingst family — headed by Nancy and her late husband, Charles — have grown some of the finest heirloom fruit in Southern California. Sadly, due to a combination of factors, including the family urging a move to Arizona, Mrs. Yingst, who is 80, has decided to let the orchard go at the end of the summer.
Yingst is still, optimistically, looking for the right person or persons to take over the 18-acre ranch in Littlerock, so if you want a fantastic farm, maybe consider calling her up. In the meantime, consider heading out to visit for a perfect u-pick afternoon before she shuts the water off around Labor Day weekend.
The Yingst ranch is in Littlerock, northeast of Los Angeles, in the high desert on the other side of the San Gabriel Mountains in the Antelope Valley, about an hour north of downtown. There, right off of Pear Blossom Highway, you can pull in and marvel at the thoughtfully curated collection of mulberry, plum, nectarine, apricot and apple trees. Look for the over 100-year-old pears trees and one of the more than 20 types of peaches, including such antique varieties as Indian Blood and Rio Oso Gem. Later in the year it typically has Gravenstein apples, a variety that's included on the Slow Food list of endangered fruits.
Upon arrival at the orchard, you are given a pail and set free to pick to your heart's content. When you harvest your own, you not only get to pick what suits you but how much suits you — and at a considerably lower cost than what you buy at the farmers market.
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With so few u-pick options left in the area, Yingst Ranch will be sorely missed if nobody steps up to take over the land. Maybe your visit will inspire you to take the reins and keep this local treasure going. As of now, a few parties are working to save the farm, but nothing is set in stone.
Yingst Ranch is closed on Mondays, but otherwise open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For questions and to find out what's available to harvest, call (661) 944-2425.