ashley englishsmall measures

small measures with ashley: u-pick farms- pick & choose

by Grace Bonney

Some of my favorite memories were made outdoors. The time when I was two and insisted on riding a horse by myself (a request to which my mother willingly acquiesced)? Happened outdoors. Straddling a creek-side fallen log cowgirl-style for a zany family photo one chilly November? Outdoors. Falling asleep in a tent on the Northern California coast after driving cross-country from North Carolina with my best gal pal Bonnie (it was August, the car had no A.C., she was moving to San Francisco-memories were made)? You guessed it. For me, indoor gatherings have their place, but couple fresh air with friends and family and it’s bound to be good. [image sources, clockwise from top left: anna wolf, andrew a. comb, tripadvisor, garden of leah, sonshine kids]

Which is precisely why I love U-Pick farms so much. Not only do you get to score some amazing produce, you do so in a decidely low-fi, slow-going, oxygen-rich manner. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take quietly catching up with a friend I haven’t seen in some time in an apple orchard or berry patch over jockeying for air space in a loud, crowded bar any day. I’ve been blackberry-, blueberry-, pumpkin-, and apple-picking with friends and family. Not only did we benefit from a leisurely paced outdoor activity together, we supported the local food community, providing income for farmers and helping to support economies within communities.

U-Pick farms offer something for pretty much every season. Come autumn, you’ll find apple, pear, pumpkin, fig and even cranberry offerings. Pick-and-Cut tree farms are a blast for selecting the perfect specimen for winter. In the spring, it’s time to pick strawberries, while summer U-Picks are a veritable feast for the senses, presenting opportunities for picking berries, peaches, cherries, plums, tomatoes, and beyond. Also, pick-your-own flower farms are becomingly increasingly serviced by thrifty and ecologically-minded brides. Can you imagine the heady aroma your car will exude after leaving a U-Pick lavender farm? Intoxicating! Remember Madeley’s Stamped Lavender Sachets ? They were crafted with buds sourced from a U-Pick farm!

If you’re going to U-Pick, why not incorporate all of your senses? Bring a picnic lunch (or brunch!) to enjoy on the premises. Alternately, you could host a post U-Pick potluck, with guests bringing dishes paying tribute to a specific seasonal offering (such as the upcoming “Sweet & Savory Apple Potluck” my husband and I will be hosting later in the month; we’ll provide the hard and hot cider, while the guests bring the eats!). Another idea might be to U-Pick with friends or family, and then head back to someone’s home for a group canning session. I’ll be doing that myself, next Friday. My editor and I are heading to a nearby apple orchard to harvest many, many bushels of apples. They’ll be rendered into small jars of apple butter and given to the publishing sales staff in promotion of my upcoming book series . Harvesting and making your own batch of something sweet or savory is also both an economical means of creating holiday gifts and stocking up your pantry for winter.

To find a U-Pick farm in your area, check out Pick Your Own . This comprehensive site offers both domestic and international U-Pick listings. You can also search your state’s government website for pick-your-own information. Now, go pick a winner and start creating your own outdoor memories to delight in and savor for years to come!

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  • Some friends and I have a big apple picking plan for next weekend! I’m so excited… there’s just something about that farm fresh, local produce that’s just so great.

  • For those of you who live in Western NC , I want to point out the Local Food Guide, a publication my organization puts out, which has a u-pick section:
    NC is known for apples, and it’s so satisfying to fill a basket with them. But now I am intrigued by all the types of crops you’ve suggested, Ashley, and want to try some different u-picks.

  • I have many happy memories of summer days spent picking strawberries, blueberries and raspberries with my friends. Our moms would get together several times a summer and take all of us kids to one of the local Pick Your Own farms. Later on, when I was older, my mom and I would occasionally go together – just the two of us for a “girls day out.” When we got home from our outdoor adventure, she’d make jam all afternoon. Thanks for stirring up so many wonderful memories!

  • This might sound really silly, but if you are going to do all that canning yourself I would highly recommend clear coating/putting some sort of polish on your nails first. The acid from all the apples we did up last year completely destroyed mine. Also, I can’t recommend enough the pampered chef apple peeler. (Or any other peeler that peels and cores at the same time.) The three of us were able to do in one weekend the same 10 or so 5 gallon buckets of apples that previous years had taken 3 weekends with my greatgrandmothers peeler.

  • Sounds wonderful! Some pick-it-yourself arrangements seem a little contrived sometimes, but there is a special pleasure in eating blackberries that you have picked yourself…

  • My grandparents have a pick-your-own blueberry farm and my best childhood memories are from there. It made such an impact on me that I’m moving to Maine to work on a farm next spring.

  • There’s an adorable farm down the street from where I live (in the not-so-rural suburbs of MD) that has a petting zoo, pumpkin patch, and a pick-your-own flower patch! It’s called Clark’s Elioak Farm, and it’s a great day trip with kids if you’re in the DC/Baltimore area.

  • Ah, yes, I remember that night camping on the beach. And the drumming hippies just outside the tent door…

    My favorite u-picks are yard-style. We have a lemon, plum, and grapefruit tree in our yard, and regularly snag oranges, pears and quince when out on neighborhood walks. (Only if the trees are hanging over the road of course…) We save a lot of $ on fruit this way and there’s nothing quite like walking out your front door to pick breakfast. We inherited these trees when we moved in, but it’s made me realize that planting a fruit tree on your property is a great investment over the long haul.

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