U-picks are a great, economical option, when you don’t have space for a home garden, and need enough fresh produce for home preservation. This is Post #1 in my series “Where to Find Produce for Storage, When You Can’t Have a Garden”.
I love finding a good u-pick in my area. It gives me the opportunity to pick and put up things I may not have grown on my own. Some years, I just don’t have the time to put in and care for a large garden. Other times, I am looking for things like fruit that I don’t have the ability to grow right now.
In this post we will cover the why, where and how of utilizing u-picks.
Why go to u-picks?
Even if you live in an apartment with no yard or garden to speak of, you can still put up a little corn in the freezer, a few jars of salsa in the cupboard, or some winter squash tucked into a corner, for very little money.
U-picks are often (not always) cheaper than buying produce at a farm stand or a grocery store. We have a great u-pick in our area that has raspberries for $2/ pound. Another, offers corn on a “pick what you want pay what you want” system. I usually pay half of the grocery store cost at this one. If I want to drive an hour or so there is a larger u-pick that offers a variety of produce for a set cost/ per bushel or half bushel. All of these are cheaper than buying produce someone else picked.
Another reason that I like u-picks, is because you can pick the produce at the stage you want it. At the u-pick that I get corn at, they grow their corn in succession. This means that I can pick it at the stage that I want it. Not everyone likes putting up corn at the same stage. I personally like it a little younger than I usually find it at a grocery store.
The last big reason to choose a u-pick would be for the experience. I remember fretting about the fact that my children were growing up, and they wouldn’t have the experiences of picking there own fruit from our fruit trees. It has taken much longer than I would have liked to get to our forever home. (We still aren’t there, yet.) But, it was a good realization that I don’t have to own fruit trees for my children to get the experience of picking fruit.
Where to find u-picks?
The best way that I have found to locate a good u-pick, is by asking around. You can ask friends and family that are into such things. There are often town facebook pages that you can ask questions in.
Another way to find things in your area is to drive around and look for them. Often there are signs on roadways or at the actual farms that advertise the u-pick, but unless you are looking for them they are missed.
You can also look in a phone book or do an internet search. There are even web sites that are specifically made to help people locate u-pick farms. One that I have used before is pickyourown.org. I am sure there are others as well.
How to utilize a u-pick?
You will want to get some information before you head over to a new u-pick. If you have a phone number, it is a good idea to call ahead. Ask about pricing and payment options. Some operations are cash only, while others can process cards or accept checks. Ask if you need to bring your own containers. Also, make sure you know the hours they are open and if they have any specific rules or minimum amounts you can pick, etc.
It is also a good idea to have a plan for using the produce, if you are going to pick a lot. Freezing and drying (using an oven) are two ways to preserve food that don’t take fancy equipment.