U-pick, We-pick, We all pick…


It is time to gather up buckets large and small and get into the fields. Farms and gardens are now brimming with bounty, including  sweet, juicy berries.

I made my first attempt at u-picking with a toddler and it went pretty well! She nearly ate her weight in strawberries (mainly from my bucket), but was pretty happy to run around the fields and hunt for the babiest and the biggest strawberries of all while a friend and I picked away.

For this first foray we chose a place close to home and found Saturdays at a u-pick are a popular family event. From the wagons and buckets brought you could tell some of these families were seasoned harvesters. While I did not come away with enough strawberries to make jam, my daughter did leave saying, “it was nice to go pick strawberries,” music to a u-pick loving mama’s ears.

IMG_7225 It was nice! And from the buzz on the playground lately a lot of parents are getting their berry fix by bringing their kids along to a u-pick. A few simple tips for success: pack a picnic, bring extra hands along if you can and don’t feel sheepish about buying more from the stand than you actually pick. Hey, it’s all about the experience of getting closer to your food and you will definitely achieve that just by getting to a farm.

Looking for the best places to get my fruit fix I’ve found that organic u-picks are all too rare, so I put the word out to a group of BC organic growers requesting suggestions of family-friendly u-picks. I’m already trying to figure out how future road trips can swing by the amazing sounding places below. You can also find farms near you at www.bcfarmfresh.com (for the Fraser Valley, BC) or www.pickyourown.org (listings around the world and good tips for canning and preserving).

First up, the only un-certified organic operation on the list, but well worth a mention for two reasons: it is incredibly close to Vancouver (near the airport) and the farm legacy is being carried on by the original farmers’ grandson, pretty courageous for someone whose barely 20.

Cherry Lane Farms, Richmond, BC
– organic, not certified
– u-pick cherries, apples, plums and greens, plus very delicious apple cider

I haven’t visited this one, but I will soon…
North Arm Farms, Pemberton, BC
– certified organic
– u-pick strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Plus ducks, a farm stand and pumpkins in the fall.

Another new discovery for me, blueberries, yum!
Circle K Blueberry Ranch, Royston, BC
– certified organic & family friendly
– u-pick blueberries

One of my favourite places is the Cawston Valley in the summer. The valley has the highest concentration of fruit stands in Canada and is the hot, dry, sweet-fruit-filled epitome of summer. While you’re there also stop in at the Blush Lane Orchard’s fruit stand for the sweetest organic peaches ever.

Similkameen River Organic Farm, Cawston, BC
– certified organicIMG_7234
– all sorts of veggies

Pilgrims Produce, near Vernon, BC
– certified organic
– u-pick strawberries, saskatoon berries, raspberries and black

My sister and I were tipped off to this u-pickers paradise while buying canning jars from an Okanagan thrift store. I’ve made multiple trips back, it is the perfect place to u-pick tomatoes for canning your own salsa or pasta sauce.

Covert Farms, Oliver, BC
– certified organic
– u-pick strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, peppers, you name it. They also offer farm camps for kids and a winery for adults.

Last, but not least, a farm where the animals look as happy as the cartoons…

Happy Pig Organic Farm, Bulkley Valley, near Smithers, BC
– certified organic
– not a u-pick, but lots of critters for kids to get to know. A chance to give belly rubs to pasture-raised pigs, milk a goat, collect eggs, feed chickens or turkeys and sneak a pet of an alpaca. Not an official petting farm, but kids are very welcome.

Happy picking. It’s time to fill your  buckets and then your belly with the goodness of summer.

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