Recently, I read an article about how “pick-your-own” farms are gaining in popularity across the country — the idea of getting your food straight from the farm is appealing to more and more people. It’s fresh, often organic, and it tastes better — it’s also economical.
If you’ve never done this before, give it a try this year. Just beware – You may end up dragging home more than you can eat. My kids think the goal of our trips to the local blueberry farm is to pick every single blueberry off of every single bush. It quickly turns into a competition about who can pick the most – I even find my competitive side coming into play. The best way to handle this abundance of blueberries (or strawberries, or blackberries) is to freeze them to use during winter (fresh blueberry pies around Thanksgiving!) or try your hand at canning and make your own jam (give them out as gifts around the holidays to co-workers and teachers).
Finding a local PYO (Pick Your Own) farm is easy – every state has them, from Alaska to Florida. Enjoy your state's offerings; you’ll find amazing fresh citrus and tropical fruits in Florida, while Washington is known for apples and cherries. In Texas, you’ll find blackberries, peaches – even cantaloupe. Here are a few places across the country and what they offer:
Ellijay, Georgia’s Hillcrest Orchards will begin their annual “Apple Pickin’ Jubilee” this weekend. This is a great way to kick off the season – pick some apples, take a wagon ride, visit the petting zoo, bob for apples, buy some apple fritters or apple cider. North Georgia has some great PYO farms; find one near you and enjoy.
Bear Swamp Orchard in Ashfield, Massachusetts has a unique holistic, organic approach to farming – they are wildlife-friendly and use innovative ideas to keep their apple orchards as natural and as “green” as possible. They even have Shetland sheep that take care of the lawn.
Appleberry Farm in Marshalltown, Iowa has a popular orchard. They also sell homemade honey, crafts, and pumpkins. In Minnesota, Deardorff Orchards is just five miles from the University of Minnesota. This large apple orchard covers 130 acres and they even have their own winery.
On the West Coast, Jones Creek Farms in Sedro Woolley, Washington features apples, tomatoes, even artichokes and garlic. Bacchini’s Fruit Tree in Brentwood, California has cherries, apricots, and walnuts. Most of these farms usually have a small country store with items such as fresh honey, homemade crafts, baked goods, and other interesting items.
With Halloween fast approaching, why not find a PYO pumpkin farm? Pumpkin farms often feature a lot of other fun “fall” activities, too – corn mazes, hayrides, live entertainment – the place we go in north Georgia has a hayride to an area with bonfires, where everyone roasts marshmallows and hot dogs. These places usually also feature hot apple cider and homemade treats. The experience will be more memorable than going to the local grocery store and plucking a pumpkin out of a bin.
No matter where you live, you can find a nearby PYO farm – so go out, enjoy the beautiful weather, and bring home some of the freshest produce possible.