When I was growing up my family always grew expansive gardens and orchards. My grandparents had more than enough produce to share with family and neighbors. Now, as an adult living in suburbia, I don’t have the land on which to plant an orchard or grow certain fruits and vegetables expansively. For our family, that means purchasing large quantities of produce when they are in season in order to preserve the produce for use throughout the year. Almost a decade ago I stumbled upon the idea of you pick farms as a means of economically satisfying my produce needs for canning and preserving food.
Are you familiar with You Pick Farms and how they can benefit you?
You Pick Farms
You Pick Farms are farms that allow their customers to come and harvest food at a fraction of the cost you would pay for the fruits and vegetables in a market or grocery store. Basically, because you are doing the harvest work yourself, the farm saves on the labor costs and distribution costs of selling the product to a retailer.
You Pick Farms come in all types and sizes. Some farms are single item farms that are open for a few short weeks a year at harvest time. Other farms are large and offer a variety of fruits and vegetables that you can take advantage of from Spring through the end of the Autumn harvest season. I like to use a variety of both types of farms to meet our needs.
8 Ways You Will Benefit From You Pick Farms
Explore And Appreciate Nature
One of the great benefits of visiting you pick farms is spending time in nature. Regardless of what type of produce is grown on the farm chances are you will find beauty in the surrounding countryside and on the farm. I am constantly amazed at how beautiful and rustic some of the farms can be. The rolling landscapes or the fields of produce that spread out for as far as the eye can see are spectacular.
Some farms like the one where I pick raspberries also grow flowers and herbs. The owner sells her gorgeous flower arrangements or customers can pick their own bouquets to enjoy at home later. The flowers and herbs also attract various butterflies and bees to the farm. Although raspberries are self-pollinating, bees help to pollinate the vast majority of the berries. Who wouldn’t be delighted at the sight beautiful flowers with butterflies fluttering around in the fields?
Know Where Your Food Comes From And How It Is Grown
If you purchase or pick your own food from a farm you have the opportunity to get to know the farmer who grows the produce. This opportunity affords you the benefit of asking questions about the methods, fertilizers, and herbicides they use to grow the crops.
If organic is important to you and the farm is not certified organic speak with the farmer about their farming practices. You may be surprised to find the produce is just as “clean” as a certified organic product but doesn’t carry the official certification because of costs and paperwork.
Every time I hear about a foodborne illness linked to being grown in a specific farm or area, I am thankful that I know where a large portion of the food comes from that we keep in our pantry and freezer. There is so much value in knowing the person who grows your food.
Support Local Business
In recent years organizations have popped up supporting buying local. Supporting local is now in vogue. The irony of this fact is up until a few decades ago produce was not trucked in from halfway around the world to meet the demands of consumers year round. Instead, people ate what was available in season or canned it for later. People either grew the food themselves or purchased it from a nearby farmer or small country store.
In reality, today supporting local means doing what your grandmother used to do, buying from your neighbors – that farmer who specializes in growing only blueberries or the one a county over who grows more corn that you can ever imagine. By supporting local business, you are supporting your local economy instead of one that is a thousand miles away. You are making the area where you live an even better place to live and getting the benefit of fresh, wholesome produce.
Purchase In Season At A Discount
Regardless of what type of product you purchase economics tells us the product is usually cheaper when the amount of supply on hand is at its greatest. For produce that means when that type of produce is in season.
By canning and freezing the produce I purchase during the height of the season, I am able to save a lot of money over the course of the entire year. For example, I purchase some items in half-bushel baskets making the price a fraction of the cost that I would pay to purchase smaller amounts throughout the year. Yes, I do invest time in harvesting, canning or freezing the produce, but this is something I enjoy and canning is a hobby. Not to mention, I control what I put into our food instead of someone else.
Requires No Upfront Time And Money Investment
Using you pick farms as a source of seasonal produce allows you to avoid the upfront time and money investment in planting and growing the crops. If you don’t have a lot of time or the space to put in a garden, you pick farms are a great alternative to purchasing products on a weekly basis from the grocery store. You get fresh, seasonal produce and enjoyment of harvesting the product instead of pulling the weeds!
You And Your Family Will Gain New Skills
I grew up helping my grandparents and parents harvest fruits and vegetables. As a teenager, I especially hated picking and shelling peas. Every year I knew the end of the school year meant this dreaded task was soon to be on my to-do list. But, now I realize how much knowledge I have from doing the mundane tasks that I detested as a child. When I go to you pick farms I am able to help people that have never harvested whatever they are picking to identify what is ripe and desirable.
What makes a better beet to eat fresh or canned – a smaller to medium size beet or the gigantic one? The answer, a smaller to medium size beet is a younger beet that likely has less “woody” cores. It may have a tender earthy taste. The larger beets may be harder to cut through and have the “woody” core which is not so great to eat. Years of harvesting and learning from my own mistakes allows me to teach others the tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years. You too will gain this knowledge as time passes.
Spend Quality Time With Friends And Family
If you live in suburbia or an urban area you can make a day trip out of visiting a you pick farm. You and your family can spend time exploring the area, harvesting the produce and just enjoy the great outdoors. The raspberry farm I go to is in Adams County, Pennsylvania. I often see cars from Virginia parked in the grass when I arrive. Virginia is only an hour or so away from the area so I assume some folks just enjoy getting out into the countryside. They get to enjoy the fresh air and spend time with their family.
The Freshest Fruits And Vegetables You Can Have
The best benefit from picking your own produce at you pick farms is being able to enjoy the freshest fruits and vegetables you can find. You picked the produce in the morning and are eating, canning or freezing it that night. It doesn’t get any fresher than that – unless you have your own garden.
Consider finding a you pick farm near you this summer to harvest some of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Once you start going to farms, you will be on the hunt for others. You can look up farms using pickyourown.org or upickfarmlocator. You may also be able to find more information through your state’s Department of Agriculture or your local Buy Fresh Buy Local organization.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to drive 30 minutes to an hour to find that specialty farm. I promise you the experience and the harvest are well worth it.
Have you ever harvested fruits and vegetables from a you pick farm?