If you’ve never visited a pick your own or u-pick farm, it’s probably time! Here are some great tips to make your first time picking fruit a total success!
Last week I shared my top reasons for going fruit picking at U-Pick or Pick Your Own farms. I hope you’ll be making a journey to a local farm soon to bring home some beautiful fruit at a great price.
If you’ve never been picked fruit before the process can be a bit of a mystery. I’ve put together a few tips to help you make your berry picking a complete success.
10 Tips for Successful Fruit Picking
1. Prepare for the weather
Fruiting plants need lots of sun to grow, which means you’ll be out in the sun as well. Make sure you bring sunscreen, and it’s also nice to have a hat and sunglasses. Be sure to also bring plenty of water. Some places will have drinking water available, but bringing your own means not having to worry about it.
2. Bring something to eat
Depending on your plans this might be a picnic lunch or just a snack. After driving out and standing in the sun for an hour or two, you will be hungry. If you’re picking with kids they will be really hungry.
Snacks can also keep your little ones from eating quite as much as they pick. I think one day my toddler got all of 5 blueberries in the bucket the whole time we were picking. If I’d fed him on the way there, or had a snack to hand him, he may have done better.
3. Wear mess friendly clothes
No matter how careful you are, there’s a good chance you’re going to end up messy. Wearing old clothes you don’t care about means you don’t have to worry about it. I also recommend having a stash of wet wipes handy for cleaning up dirty hands and faces.
Wearing old sneakers is also a good idea since you may step in dropped fruit. You also may want sneakers and socks on if you are picking off of thorny plants like blackberries or raspberries.
4. Bring a bucket
Many farms will provide something for you to pick in, if only to make their job of weighing your crops easier. But they may not provide something to take your fruit home in, or it might not be the ideal container. Farms may also charge for these containers to keep their overhead low. If you are picking something delicate like peaches or strawberries you should try to bring lots of small containers so the fruit won’t stack up and squish each other.
I recently picked very ripe boysenberries (they were amazing!). The farm provided large buckets with bags lining them, then simply tied up the bag to send the berries home. This had worked really well for the blueberries I picked there, but the boysenberries were pretty much jam by the time I got home. Next time I’ll bring some small pint baskets like you get berries in at the farmers market.
5. Bring cash
Lots of small farms are starting to accept credit/debit thanks to services like Square and Paypal, but many are still only accepting cash (though some may also take a check). I generally try to bring as much cash as I think I’ll spend plus about 50% (if I think I’ll spend $20 I’ll bring $30). This way you’ll never get stuck with more fruit than you have cash for.
This also allows you a bit of wiggle room in case there are any other things you want to buy. Lots of farms will have other things for sale such as fresh honey or cut flowers.
6. Bring a Camera
OK, this one might not be necessary for everyone. But those of us who like to obsessively document every day of their lives (that’s me!) will definitely want a camera for this one. If you take kids they will most definitely be adorable. There’s a good chance you will have a beautiful countryside to photograph as well. Better to have your camera available so you’re not kicking yourself later for missing that perfect moment.
7. Use the restroom before you leave home
Most places will have at least a port-o-potty. I’ve visited some with nice guest bathrooms. But this is definitely a better safe than sorry thing. You may be there for a few hours or more, and should be drinking lots of water to stay hydrated. This one is especially important if you’re picking with kids.
8. Call ahead
You may have found all of the information you need online, but some online sources are only updated now and again and may have outdated information. This is also the only way to be sure of what is in season for picking in a certain day or week.
On the other hand, many farms now have Facebook or Twitter accounts that allow them to post updates. Finding these before you go can give you the current information you need. It also allows you to ask questions before you go, and I’ve had great response times from farms when asking questions.
If you find a farm you really like following them on social media will let you get notifications about what is ready and when. The first time I picked peaches happened because an orchards update happened to come up in my Facebook feed one morning. I was so glad I’d followed them!
You might also find out that the farm you’re going to visit has more than you thought. I recently found out that my favorite U-Pick berry farm also had an orchard. They even had figs, which are one of my favorites and rather hard to find fresh!
9. Ask about eating in the field.
As I understand it, different farms have different policies regarding snacking as you pick. Since there is no generally accepted etiquette, it’s always a good idea to ask when you arrive, especially if you are picking with very young kids. My policy is usually to have them add a pound or two to my total to make up for eaten/dropped fruit since I’m picking with toddlers and not much always makes it to the bucket.
10. Only Pick What You Can Process
Bringing home ripe ready-to-eat fruit means that however much you bring home, it needs to be eaten or processed within a few days or it’ll begin to go bad. I generally bring home no more than about 10 lbs. at a time, less if it’s something difficult to process.
The good news is that fruit picking is fun, so taking multiple trips isn’t really a big deal as long as the fruit stays in season. And going back throughout the summer will mean getting to try different varieties of fruits like blueberries and peaches that have late and early varieties.
I also like to plan ahead a few recipes I want to make so I can get a feel for how much will get used for pie, jam, cake, etc. But keep in mind that some fruits, like strawberries, can have really small picking windows. This year I almost missed local strawberries because they ripened earlier than usual. I got lucky and found some at a fruit stand, but I didn’t get to pick them myself which was a bummer.
Ready to go pick some fresh fruit yourself? Check out pickyourown.farm for a really easy to use listing of places to pick in all 50 states. Pickyourown.org also has farm listings, picking tips, and schedules for what crops are in season.
Do you have any tips you can share on how to have the best day picking? I’d love to hear them, just leave a comment below!