(John Kegebein (driving tractor) takes members of the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County on a hayride through Watsonville Slough Farm in 2017. File photo by Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian)
WATSONVILLE — Local nonprofit organization Land Trust of Santa Cruz County will host its annual Bee Barn Bash on Saturday, and for the first time the event will be open to the public.
Previously an event to celebrate the organization and thank its members, this year’s Bee Barn Bash will also invite non-members, their friends and family to visit Watsonville Slough Farm and commemorate the Land Trust’s 40th anniversary.
The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, established in 1978, aims to protect, care for and give public access to county lands. According to Executive Director Stephen Slade, the organization has protected about 14,000 acres of land throughout the county — with 12,000 of those being protected in just the last 10 years.
“It’s almost as if we’ve finally made it out of our teens, and now we’re middle-aged and at our most productive,” Slade laughed. “We’ve grown into ourselves.”
Watsonville Slough Farm was bought in 2009 by the Land Trust. The plot of land had almost been turned into a housing development with hundreds of condominiums and a golf course before the acquisition. The Land Trust intends to transform the farm into a public area complete with 5-7 miles of trails winding through its various fields and wetlands.
“This whole area used to be private land,” Slade said. “To have protected its natural resources, and to give that back to the public — it’s incredibly exciting.”
This is why the Bee Barn Bash will be open to the public this year: to introduce more people to the space and, as Slade explained, generate interest in the future trail system.
Planned for the event are hay rides courtesy of the Agricultural History Project, farm tours led by Land Trust employees, face painting, and live music by the Jesse Daniel Band. A raffle will be held with prizes from REI.
Free local beer from Corralitos Brewery and the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery will be offered to guests, and food will be for sale at food trucks from Holopono (Pono Hawaiian Grill) and Saucey’z.
“It’s always a good time,” said Land Trust’s Communications and Development Director Calah Pasley. “We’re so happy we can share it with the public this time around.”
Pasley, whose daughter was born just eight weeks ago, was sure to emphasize that all ages are welcome.
“It’ll be a true multi-generational celebration,” she said.
The Bee Barn Bash will be held from 4-8 p.m. While the event is free and open to the public, each guest must RSVP prior due to limited space.
Watsonville Slough Farm is located at 560 Harkins Slough Road. The Bee Barn is located one mile down the farm’s dirt road.
To RSVP and for information, visit landtrustsantacruz.org.