Tips And Tricks For The Perfect U-Pick Farm Experience

It’s the time of year when farms and fruit orchards invite the public to come and pick fresh fruit! It’s one of my favourite summer things to do, and here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way to make it super enjoyable.

Bring A Cooler

Once picked, ripe berries lose their juice, flavor and texture unless refrigerated. So bring a cooler to keep them fresh until you get home and into the freezer or fridge.

Hat, Sunscreen, And Good Shoes

The sun is hot, and sunscreen is a must for your outing. A hat provides shade and keeps bugs away. Remember you are going to a farm with mud and dirt. Getting to the middle of the berry field or the orchard can be a hike, so good walking shoes are essential.

Pack A Lunch

Bring snacks so you aren’t eating all the fruit and berries before you get home. And remember to bring a water bottle to stay hydrated; it’s hot out there!

Go Early Or Late

Going early in the day beats the heat and the crowds that come later and also guarantees the juiciest and ripest of berries and fruits that day. Did you know that strawberries are more plump in the morning because they have absorbed all the dew from the night?

Early evenings are also a great time to pick. The air is a little cooler, and sometimes the farm will drop the price per picking pound towards the end of the day. It’s an excellent time for a bargain!

Leave Fido At Home

Pets can be a distraction, dig up dirt, run through bushes, break off branches, stomp on nicely spaced crops, and be tempted by fresh-off-the-vine snacks. Fido’s better off at home for this adventure.

Do Some Homework

Call ahead and ask what the farm’s per-pound price is and whether or not you should bring your baskets or buckets for picking. Usually, they’re provided, but it’s good to double-check.

Make sure to ask beforehand if the farm uses pesticides or herbicides. Becoming “certified organic” is expensive and time-consuming, so many small farms choose not to go through it.

And most importantly, ask if it’s OK to sneak a berry or apple while picking. Because the farm charges per pound, some will discourage this, wanting to get as much money as possible from the picking.

Picking Tricks

Now it’s time to pick! A few pointers will guarantee the ripest and best fruit. If picking blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries from a bush, bend down and look at the bottom branches. Many people ignore a berry bush’s lower half, which can be where the best fruit is.

Pick only the fruit that easily falls off branches and stems; this means it’s ripe. If you can reach it, the fruit or berries near the top of a bush or tree are usually the sweetest as they’ve baked in the sun the longest.

Best tip: have fun and enjoy all the fresh fruit goodness now, made into pies or preserved as jam and jelly. Yummy!

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Invited by the Canadian Garden Council to be an ambassador for the Year of the Garden 2022, Jennifer is a garden enthusiast, writer, and alumni of Simon Fraser University. Her bylines have appeared in the opinion section of the Toronto Star, and her portfolio includes articles for Chatelaine online, Reader’s Digest, Canada’s History Magazine, and Modern Farmer magazine, among other newspapers, magazines, and websites across Canada. When not writing, you can find her visiting local garden centers or puttering, planting, and nourishing her urban garden oasis in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.