Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County offers new U-Pick farm list to connect residents with local food.
During this summer of unprecedented health and social crisis, picking your own fruit and vegetables may be one of the safest, most direct ways of getting fresh produce. U-pick operations allow customers to harvest fruit and vegetables by themselves in an on-farm setting, often paying a lower price and getting distinctly fresher food.
CCE-Monroe has developed a guide of U-Pick farms to connect residents with locally grown fresh food. The list is a part of the currently developed Local Food Guide and includes over 20 U-Picks. It can be found at http://monroe.cce.cornell.edu/agriculture/local-food-guide .
Going to a U-Pick farm is a great family activity that can be enjoyed at any age. But before going, the residents should call or visit farm websites before going, to verify hours, availability, and COVID-19 guidelines.
When customers arrive, farms will often provide containers for customers to use. They may have guidelines about which rows to pick or how to tell if fruit is ripe. Some farms have pick-your-own vegetables or ready-picked vegetables and fruit at their checkout areas or farm stands. Most U-Pick operations accept cash or check only.
In August, a variety of fruit is available for U-Pick, including blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, currants, grapes, peaches, plums, prunes, raspberries, and watermelon. In September and October, apples, pumpkins, and squash begin to ripen, too. Seasons and availability vary from farm to farm and check each farm’s website for specifics is advisable.
Loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, fresh fruit have many health benefits that help boost the immune system. Some people pick berries for a fresh consumption, some for a pie to be enjoyed later, and some for long-term storage. There are many ways to preserve fruit, including freezing, drying, canning, jams and jellies, and pickling.
Historically, the Pick-Your-Own fruit farms emerged in the US when prices for some crops hit low levels in the 1930s and 1940s, failing to cover the production cost. This prompted some producers to allow customers to come to the fields to pick their own produce for purchase. The trend towards ‘rural recreation’, with people driving from the cities to the countryside for leisure, increased the popularity of this type of marketing.
Today, U-Picks are a major component of the agritourism industry, and one of the safest, most enjoyable ways to provide consumers with fresh produce.