Even if you can't grow your own produce, that doesn't mean you can't pick your own (PYO). Every state has PYO or U-Pick farms - including Alaska - that make it possible. It's fun, invigorating and a great way to get the freshest fruits and vegetables when ripe for the picking.
Growing up in New Jersey, blueberry picking was our thing. My mother would allow my two sisters and me to each invite a friend because she wanted all the free labor she could get. Our nimble fingers were perfectly suited to grasping the plump berries and filling our beach pails. I will always associate those trips with the Fourth of July because we came home red, white and blue from the sun-burn and stained fingers!
Why not plan an outing with your own kids, grandkids or like-minded friends? Check here to find the PYO farms in your state and what's in season. The site provides pretty much everything else you need to know about picking your own produce as well.
Helpful Hints Before U-Pick
Call the farm first to get the most up-to-date information about crop availability. Weather conditions can alter ripening by a few days or weeks.
Have a back-up plan in case it rains once you get there, such as a visit to a local historic site or other points of interest.
Check with your local food bank about donating any excess crops you pick or grow yourself.
What to Bring
- Small containers that are easy to carry when picking if the farm does not provide their own. Depending on the crop, you may need pails with handles, single-strap shoulder bags, or sturdy sacks you can drag.
- Larger containers to transfer your harvest into for weighing, volume check or count. Sturdy cardboard boxes or woven bushel baskets are suitable. Use smaller containers, such as plastic produce baskets, for delicate fruits so they don't get crushed by packing too deep.
- Optional pail to fill with water and use to rinse produce before packing
- Picnic coolers with ice packs if it's very hot and crops will be in a closed car for a long time
- Snipping shears or small knife to cut stems
- Plastic zip-top bags for herbs
- Drinks to stay hydrated all day
- Meal and/or snacks depending on how long you will be picking
- Picnic blanket to use when you eat, preferably under a shade tree
- Hand sanitizer and/or disposable wipes to clean up before eating and at the end of the day
- Cash, check or an accepted credit card - inquire with the farm first
- Camera if you want to capture the memories!
What to Wear
- Sunscreen on all exposed skin and possibly insect repellant if in a marshy area
- Old clothes that you won't worry about getting stained
- Pants and long-sleeved shirt if picking from thorny plants or climbing ladders to reach into tree branches
- Layers if starting in out cooler morning temperatures that may grow warmer
- Wide-brimmed hat and neck shield if out in full sun
- Sunglasses or protective lenses if picking where branches may brush the eyes or face
- Gloves, if preferred
- Comfortable, enclosed shoes, such as old sneakers, that can withstand mud
- Back brace if not used to a lot of bending
Alternatives to Picking When Visiting the Farm
- Farm tours & Petting Zoos
- Worm Beds & Bee Hives
- Jam Making, Canning & Preserving
- Herb & Flower Drying
- Homemade Ice Cream Churns
- Hay rides & Sleigh-Rides
- Apple Cider & Wine Presses
- Corn Mazes & Haunted Pumpkin Patches
- Cut-Your-Own Christmas Trees & Wreath-Making
- Gift shops with supplies, cookbooks, and homemade foods
- Seasonal Festivals featuring a particular crop
I'm ready for peaches and raspberries, what's on your list?
Keep this Guide handy along with my All-You-Need-to-Know Guide on Shopping in Local Farm Markets