If you live in a place where winters are cold and frozen like I do, the arrival of locally-grown produce is one of the delights of summer. When the vegetables and fruits are abundant and in season locally, I get a little greedy. I want to make every meal from local produce to enjoy the colors and flavors while they fill the markets and my kitchen. I want to eat berries, freeze them, bake them into pies and muffins, and maybe make some jam. I don’t grow fruit myself, but that is where “pick your own” farms come in. For a little time and not too much money, I can satisfy my summer fruit needs by picking my own.
Farms across the country offer the option for customers to come and pick their own berries, apples, and sometimes vegetables. Since you provide the labor for harvesting, the produce is less expensive than it would be from the market. Farms that offer “U-pick” usually monitor the field to make sure that there is plenty to pick when they are open. They can tell you about the different varieties of blueberries, which apples are best for pies, or where you will find the most strawberries in the patch.
Every year I make sure that I pick plenty of strawberries and blueberries when they are in season. I prefer to pick organic berries, but I haven’t always been able to find them near where I live. Before I visit the farm, I call ahead to find out what practices they use for pest control and if the fruit has recently been sprayed. Visiting a farm to pick your own is also an opportunity to meet the farmer, ask questions, and learn more about the farm’s practices and crops.
Most farms provide containers for you to pick into, but usually they don’t mind if you bring your own. Just ask them to weigh your containers before you start picking so you don’t pay for the weight of the container along with your fruit. I like to bring my own containers to reduce waste, but each fruit should be treated differently. If you are new to picking your own, you can use what the farm provides until you figure out what works for you and the fruit you pick.
To find farms in your area, try searching the internet, but also ask around. Farmers that sell at farmers’ markets may offer pick your own or know which farms do. A visit to a U-pick farm can provide an afternoon of entertainment, teach children more about where their food comes from, or result in making jam. You might quickly pick a few pints to capture the sweetness of the season or pick several pounds if, like me, you can get enough fresh local fruit. Pick your own farms are there so everyone can get just what they want out of the abundance of summer.