Nothing says summer like berry picking! But sometimes, things just don’t go as planned. The car ride is too long, the kids are antsy, and you end up leaving with only a smattering of berries in your bucket. Here are some tips from Sofia Kondilis-Hashem of Sauvie Island’s Bella Organic on how to avoid those times and make the most out of your berry picking experience.
- Check crop updates before heading out — and not just day-of. Most bigger u-pick farms have websites or Facebook pages and post crop updates regularly, or you can always call to ask what’s available. While you should check the day you go to make sure what you want to pick is available, start checking crop updates even sooner than that. Weather is a major factor in when crops will be ready, and with the warmer winters we’ve been having, the u-pick dates of many fruits and vegetables have moved up considerably. (Strawberries aren’t just a June thing anymore). You wouldn’t want to miss your favorite crop!
- Look at the weather before heading out to pick. It’s best to go early morning if it will be a hot day or wait for a cooler day to take little ones out. Even a little rain can be a good thing! The mist can keep you cool and keep the crowds out. Fewer people = more berries for you.
- Make the trip a fun learning experience. Visiting a working farm gives parents a great opportunity to teach their kids where their food comes from. While at the farm, you can see everything from barren rows of dirt, to tiny sprouts, to flowering crops, to hard, barely edible fruit, and of course – that delicious ripe fruit. In addition to teaching your kids about the plant cycle, it also provides an opportunity to teach them about farm etiquette. Farmers have many crops planted in fields, and kids often don’t know the difference between stepping on plants or grass. Or kids may just pick whatever they see, not just the ripe stuff. You can use this as an opportunity to talk to your kids about the importance of being careful with plants, and respecting the hard work that farmers have put into making the u-pick experience available to you and to others.
- Bring the right gear. Prepare for a trip to the farm like you would a day at the beach. With very little shade in the berry patches, you’ll want to bring hats and sunscreen. It’s also a good idea to bring some snacks, so the kids don’t completely over indulge in the berries. Many farms have wagons that you can use for free, but you may want to call ahead to make sure if your little ones are too young to walk very far.
- Have fun! Picking your own food can be incredibly rewarding. Be proud of your accomplishments, and get ready to indulge in the spoils!