Summer is one of the best seasons of the year to eat healthy and enjoy nature. Did you know many farmers around the nation allow for the public to come and help harvest?
Ever heard of helping farmers harvest their crops? No, this is not like the summer jobs that adolescents sign up for to earn a little extra cash. Rather, throughout the summer, many farmers have an option called “u-pick”. Basically, this means that anyone from the public can come on the grounds for a minimal price and pick fruits and vegetables to take home.
So why would you want to help farmers harvest when everything is readily available in the grocery stores? Not only is picking your own produce fun but it is also a great way to pay less and get a fresher product.
What many consumers are not aware of is the amount of time that a single piece of produce must endure before reaching the shelves at the grocery stores. For instance, avocados must go through a long process of picking, cleaning, storage, packaging, travel and so on. This process might take up to two weeks! In fact, a few weeks ago I went to the grocery store and talked to a produce stocker whom told me that the avocados that they sell are actually frozen during shipping so there is no rotting in the travel process. Although grocery stores try their best to receive the freshest produce, it is almost impossible to get everything completely fresh from the bush or tree.
Additionally, if you are picking your own produce from the farm, consumers are allowed to be a little picky. Numerous times I have taken a visit to the grocery store and found that bundled produce contains both good and bad fruit. For instance, before I started harvesting my own produce in the summer, I would purchase fresh strawberries from the grocery store. To my chagrin each time, each package of strawberries contained a few good berries while also a few bad ones. It is hard to find the perfect produce. By choosing to u-pick produce, consumers are allowed to pick the largest, juiciest fruit and vegetables possible. If you like smaller berries, well then pick smaller ones. U-pick is all about options.
If the above two benefits to harvesting your own produce was not enough, let’s talk about price. Most farmers charge around 25 percent less than market and farmers market prices! For instance, this last week while visiting Michigan my family and I went to a blueberry farm that provides u-pick options. In the area, market prices for half a pint of blueberries is around $4.00 each. At the u-pick farm, we paid around $10.00 for two pounds. In addition, we were able to pick unsurpassable fresh blueberries that were ten times sweeter than store purchased ones. Prices will vary farm to farm however it will always be cheaper since there is no middleman in the selling process.
For families with children, going to a u-pick farm is very entertaining and educational. Not only will children learn about farming but will also have a greater appreciation for the produce that is normally purchased in the grocery store. During my families’ adventure to the blueberry farm last week, my two nieces (one and three years old) went along for the fun. It was the first time for both of them to pick blueberries from the farm since they both live in a large city. After two hours, it was hard to pull them both away from the blueberry picking fun. Even after one week, the three year old is still talking about the blueberry farm.
For newbie’s, u-pick may be a new concept and a little baffling. Do not worry though, it is very easy and anyone can become an expert. To find a u-pick farm, jump on the internet and look up a farm in your area. If you are unsure about a farm in your area, feel free to telephone and ask about u-pick options. Next, place some suntan lotion on, put on a hat or jacket and travel towards the u-pick farm. Usually there is a sign in location at the farm, look for signs stating u-pick. Most farmers require you to sign up in the register book, to know who is out in the fields for safety. In addition, the farmers will hand you buckets or boxes to collect your produce in. A few farmers will not have containers, so double check before you head to the farms. Then, head to the fields and collect your produce. (Remember since you are in the fields, you can also sample the produce if it is small, such as blueberries.) Afterwards, the produce is either counted or weighed to determine the cost. The produce will be placed in boxes or bags to travel home. That is it!
U-pick farms are the best way to collect the freshest produce, save some money and have a fantastic day outdoors! Harvesting in most locations starts around July through October. In my opinion, July and August are the best months since fresh fruits such as raspberries, cucumbers, lettuce, strawberries, apples and et cetera are grown during this time. Just remember to double check on the policies and times the farm is open for u-picking before you go. Your family will just have a great time as mine always does.