If you’re trying to find something for the family to do outdoors…then you need to head to some U-Pick Farms!
What’s a U-Pick Farm? It’s a farm where you can pick your own produce!
Fresh strawberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, zucchini or squash…you name it, you can pick it!
It’s a great place to spend time together, saving money, and showing our kids where their food comes from.
Each year our family heads to some farm to pick produce because it’s a great way to save money. We pick the produce and then freeze it or can it for later.
We’ve picked up to 50 pounds of strawberries before and then made jams, smoothies, and even strawberry lemonade! And it’s always such a fun time together.
That’s why I wanted to share with you my best u-pick farm ideas so that you’ll know what to expect and how to be prepared to go picking.
Plus, I’ll share my tricks for making the most of your day at a u-pick farm so you can create lots of great memories.
And, I’ve found the best u-pick farm tips so you can save money on your produce needs this year.
So let’s get busy learning about how to save money and having fun on your u-pick farm day!
What To Know Before You Go
Here are some u-pick farm tips to get you started.
First, find a u-pick farm near you on Pickyourown.org.
Check the weather before you go. If it’s going to be hot, make sure to bring plenty of drinks for you and your family.
Address & Times Of Picking & When It’s Less Crowded
You’ve gotta know the times of when and where you can pick. The first hours of the morning are a good time to go. If there’s a chance of rain during the day, it may be less crowded then too.
What Kind And If Pesticides Are Used
If the use of pesticides is important to you, make sure to ask which ones are used, if any. Then you can determine if you still want to pick or when is a better time to pick.
Most farms won’t use any after the fruit has started producing so later in the season would be a better time to pick if you are unsure about pesticides.
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Is There Anything Else Available To Do At The Farm
Some U-Pick Farms don’t ust have produce to pick, they have other fun things available to do, see, and purchase. Some have other produce available to purchase, some have shake shacks, playgrounds, and even petting zoos!
Make sure you are prepared with this information so you can spend more time at the farm and maybe more money if needed. Because you wouldn’t want to pass up a fresh apple fritter, apple donut, or apple cider! Now would you?!! I didn’t think so.
How To Save Money At U-Pick Farms
If you’re going to go u-picking, check out these u-pick farm tips before you go.
Prices & What Types Of Payment Do They Accept
Cash or card you’ll need to know what types of payment they accept. Is there a discount for cash? You might need to ask!
And don’t forget to figure out how much the types of produce are too. Make sure it’s a price worth picking! Most u-pick farms have great prices so it’s always worth picking. That’s one way on how you can save more money this year by stocking up when the prices are low.
Plus, you’ll be supporting local farmers and your neighbors!
What Types Of Produce Are Available To Pick
Certain times of the year there are more than one types of produce to pick. Make sure you know which items are available for u-pick when you are going. Some crops have a short window of opportunity so don’t miss out.
Plus, make sure you know how to tell when each produce type is ripe. You don’t want to be picking unripe produce!
Check out the crop calendar for your area so you can get prepared for the next crop.
Get A Plan & Figure Out How Much You Actually Need
It’s one thing to go picking for fun, it’s another thing to bring home 30 pounds of tomatoes and not have a clue of what you are going to do with them!
Have a plan for what you are going to do with the produce when you get home with it. Are you going to freeze them? Can or dehydrate? Figure it out before you go so the produce doesn’t get wasted.
Are There Discounts For Bulk Buying
If you’ve planned to can a bunch of tomatoes, ask whether there is a discount for buying in bulk. It never hurts to ask!
Do They Sell Seconds At A Cheaper Rate
Seconds are produce that doesn’t exactly look like the others, or is somewhat deformed but still good to eat. Ask and see if there is a discount on seconds.
What To Bring
Don’t hop in the car just yet! Check out these u-pick farm tips to plan a better picking day.
Water, Snacks & Backpacks
First, you’ll want to stay hydrated. Even if it’s a cool day, if you’re out in the sun you’ll most likely get over heated. Bring some water so your family can stay hydrated.
If you think it may take a while to pick, go ahead and pack a picnic or some snacks so you can snack afterward. You might be hungry even if you haven’t sampled your way through picking. Or in my case, my boys are always hungry so I’ll pack something anyway!
We usually bring a couple of backpacks that can carry our water, keys, and our cellphones. This way we are not trying to carry them and pick at the same time.
Bring Your Own Containers
If you are going to any u-pick farms, you need to know what you will be putting your produce in while you pick. Some farms have baskets or pails for you to use, some will not. So check before you go if you need to bring something with you to put your produce in while you go.
If you are picking delicate produce like berries, pick a shallow bowl, pan or plastic bin to put them in. If you put your berries in a gallon bucket, the weight of the berries on top will smush the ones on the bottom.
If you don’t have any containers, raid your recycling bin. You can carve out the top half of a plastic gallon milk jug but leave the handle. This will leave a handle for carrying the produce while giving you ample space to put your hand in the jug to put the fruit.
The first time I went berry picking, I left with my berries in a bag…a big bag. Which most of them were squished by the time I got home. So even if the farm has something for you to pick the fruit with, you may want something a little better than a bag to put your fruit in after you have paid for it. This way they will be protected on the trip home.
Cooler & Ice For Produce
If it’s hot, you’ll want to bring a cooler with drinks and snacks for your family. But you may also want to bring a cooler and ice for your produce. If it’s sweltering hot, the heat might just melt those precious berries you just picked.
Hand Sanitizer & Wipes
While most u-pick farms have restrooms, some will only have portable restrooms. Make sure to bring some hand sanitizer and wipes even for berry picking clean up!
Towels Or Paper Towels
Going berry picking or even pumpkin picking can get messy. You may encounter mud or juices that will get your family messy in a hurry! Be prepared with something to clean up the mess just in case.
First Aid Kit
It would be smart to bring at least a small first aid kit to keep in your car. If you’re picking berries, you’ll want to bring some bandaids and some ointment for those nicks and cuts. One of my boys is always getting hurt so it’s a smart thing to have on hand for those little booboos.
Dress For The Occasion
There’s nothing like a sun-squelching day in the field picking produce! You’ll want to be prepared so you don’t get heat exhaustion or burnt to a crisp with these u-pick farm ideas.
Here’s how we normally dress when we go to u-pick farms:
- Sun hats – It’s hot so grab a hat!
- Wear closed-toe shoes – Because you never know if there’s mud or creepy crawlers around.
- Wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind being stained. Yup. Gathering berries on your favorite shirt while someone else has the bucket is a sure-fire way to stain a good shirt.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen and the bug spray too.
Did you check the weather before you left? If you think it might rain, bring a rain jacket just in case. It’s kind of impossible to hold an umbrella, carry a bucket, pick the berries, and stay dry.
Are you picking prickly things with thorns? Then you’ll probably need to bring a long sleeve shirt and bring gloves for your hands too.
Respect The Farm
Follow The Signs
Make sure you read the signs of where to park, which rows to pick from and so forth.
Follow The Rules
U-pick farms are just that, they are farms with lots of people and working machinery. No farmer wants anyone to get hurt, so follow the rules of where you should go and where you shouldn’t.
While this may seem obvious, remind your children that they are not home. They are on someone else’s property and so they must follow the rules.
Respect The Farm
Don’t think of u-pick farms as just the “outdoors”. Think of them as a business office! You wouldn’t go trashing an office, so don’t do the same for these u-pick farms.
Don’t litter and don’t be disrespectful in other ways like stepping on the plants, breaking limbs, or climbing in between the rows or you might get asked to leave. Respect the farm, the farmer, and all the hard work they have put into the farm and have a good time picking!
Also, respect the plants! Each plant has a different way of picking the fruit off as to not damage the fruit or the branch or vine. Check out these ways to pick vegetables or different kinds of fruits.
FREE Things You Can Get At U-Pick Farms
Did you know there are a bunch of “FREEbies” you can get at u-pick farms? There are!
First, you can get lots of FREE memories! Spending time outdoors together as a family is a truly good time well spent. It’s not only creating memories, but they are FREE too! While you’ll still need to pay for the produce you’ve picked, creating memories with your family that will last a lifetime is priceless!
Second, you can take FREE pictures! Most farms have some kind of sign or even a photo stand in sign (or face in the hole board) where you can take pictures! It’s a great way to remember the day and how little your babies were when you went. So get some pictures of your fun day at the farm!
Third, samples! Most u-pick farms will let you sample while you pick. Please ask before you head out to pick though. So fill your belly while you are filling your bucket!
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Fresh Air, Sunshine, and Vitamin D are the fourth things you can get for FREE…depending on the weather. And since Vitamin D is essential to your life and happiness, go get some!
The fifth thing you can get for free is a workout! Just think of it…squats, lunges, bicep curls, and even sled drags can give you a great workout at the farm. Have you ever pulled a wagon filled with apples and berries up a steep hill? So full that you had to stop and pick up the apples that dropped out? I have and I can tell you, it was a good workout!
And the last thing you can get for FREE is the experience. How lucky we are to live near so many great u-pick farms where we can spend the day with our family picking produce! Since I love apples, I had always wanted to go to an apple orchard. But living in Florida all my life, there aren’t any around here. So while we were visiting family up north, we actually got to visit an apple orchard and pick apples! It was so neat! It was an experience I will remember all my life. So neat in fact, that I’ve even created a little bucket list of produce to pick next. You can do that too with your family!
So take a day and go u-picking with your family!
Know Your Limits
If you’re not used to spending the day out in the heat, make sure you know your limits. Make sure to hydrate and leave before you get overheated.
You’re also going to need to know how much you can afford. Before going out in the field, make sure you know the prices and how much a bucket/basket is before filling them up.
If you’ve planned on canning or freezing, also make sure you know how many pounds you really need that day. If you can’t can or freeze them all the same day, make sure you have a plan so the produce doesn’t get wasted.
Remember to also take into account how much your freezer can hold before planning a big day of picking. If your freezer is full, you may have to scale back your picking excitement.
What To Do When You Get Home
Now you’ve got all this produce…what are you going to do with it?
Hopefully, you started with a plan to either freeze, can or dehydrate your produce. It’s not saving money if your produce goes to waste.
If it’s too late in the day to do anything with it that day, the good rule of thumb is to treat your produce like your grocer would. If it’s normally refrigerated, then stick it in the fridge. If it’s not, then leaving it out on the counter for the next day is good.
But don’t wash it just yet! Washing produce items like berries starts the clock on making it go bad. Leave the washing until you are ready to freeze it or making into jams.
When we are ready, we create an assembly line of cutters and washers. Then we freeze the produce or start the canning process.
Tools To Get The Job Done
Once you’ve got the goods, you’re going to need to save them so I’ll share with you the best tools I have to get the job done.
Tools For Fruits & Veggies
Strawberries: I use this Strawberry Huller to pluck the stems free. Then we cut them and flash freeze them.
Apples: Now if you’ve ever had to cut and peel a bunch of apples, you know what a pain that is. Invest is one of these Apple Peeler Corer Slicers and it will go a whole lot faster.
Cherries: Picking the pits out of cherries is the pits! So get a good cherry pitter and save yourself some time.
Paring & Peeling Knife Set: You’ll need sharp knives to get your produce cut and ready. Here’s a great 3 piece knife set perfect for peeling and cutting.
Vegetable Peeler/Slicer: Cleaning and slicing vegetables may be a pain, but not when you have the right tools. Try this Julienne Peeler Stainless Steel Cutter Slicer. I love to make zoodles with it and it’s so much easier and faster than a regular zoodle maker.
Tools For Freezing
Baking Sheets & Parchment Paper: After the berries have been cut, we flash freeze them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
FoodSaver: One thing about the FoodSaver, is that I know the produce that I picked will stay fresh even months in the freezer.
FoodSaver Bags: You’ll need some FoodSaver bags so you can pack all that frozen produce in.
Freezer Bag Holders: If you’ve filled freezer bags or even Foodsaver bags before, you know what a pain they can be to fill while holding it open. That’s one reason why I love these bag holders. They hold the bag stay open so you can fill it without it tipping over and spilling the contents.
Tools For Canning
Immersion Blender For Pureeing Foods: I love having my immersion blender. We processed all those tomatoes into pasta sauce several years ago.
Canning Jars: Canning jars come a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Determine what size you need based on what you are making.
Water Bath or Pressure Cooker Canner: If you’ve never canned before, I suggest you start with a water bath canner. Only fruits and some vegetables can be water bath canned and it’s a less costly start up than pressure cooker canning.
Canning Tool Set: If you’re going to can, you’ll need a canning utensil set.
Ball Canning Book: If you’ve never done any canning, it’s a true science to make sure you don’t poison yourself. Make sure you follow reputable recipes. I reccommend using a Ball Recipe or Canning Book. It has lots of proven recipes to help you get started.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my best u-pick farm ideas so that you’ll know what to expect and how to be prepared to go picking.
Plus, these tricks for making the most of your day at a u-pick farm will help you create lots of great memories.
And, these best u-pick farm tips can really help you save money on your produce needs this year.
So get out and get some sunshine and some fresh produce with your family! It’s a good time to save money and make memories!