Kids like two-year-old Teagan Eisenring are a familiar sight at Berry Patch Farms in Brighton, Colorado. She gawks in amazement at the rows of ripe, juicy organic strawberries on her first trip to the farm. Teagan stoops to pluck her first berry from a row of plants in the pick-it-yourself strawberry patch, then pauses to take a bite. Her eyes grow wide, her brow furrows in concentration, and bright red juice dribbles down her chin. She plucks another, then another.
This wholehearted sampling of the merchandise is fine with farm owners Tim and Claudia Ferrell. In fact, they encourage customers to taste before they pick. Although their berries are common to other parts of the country, the Ferrells think theirs are made sweeter by the cool Colorado temperatures and the farm’s rich soil. In fact, they claim that once you taste a fresh ripe berry from their 40-acre Brighton, Colorado, farm, you’ll keep coming back year after year.
Sharing the farm
Because the Ferrells farm organically, it’s labor intensive―the field needs constant hand weeding, and organic crops require soil building and biological pest control―but they say they wouldn’t farm any other way. (For more on organic you-pick operations, see below.)
Over the ten years the Ferrells have worked this farm, their business has grown. The six acres dedicated to strawberries are a draw for loyal customers, but they also grow and sell you-pick flowers and other crops on the remaining acreage. Satisfied customers return each year to sample the candy onions, Swiss chard, kale, and lettuces, as well as the sweet strawberries.
Consequently, kids such as Teagan can be part of a working farm for a day. The Ferrells feel it’s good for little ones to see first-hand how things grow and that food doesn’t just materialize in grocery stores. “This farm isn’t just for Tim and me,” Claudia says. “It’s ours to share.”
Strawberries benefit from organic practices since they absorb chemicals, if exposed. Although conventionally grown strawberries meet safety standards, they can absorb residue from pesticides and contaminated soil, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Berry patches dot the nation, though organic farms with you-pick options, like Berry Patch Farms, are more rare. Here’s a sampling from around the country. Visit www.pickyourown.org for listings of conventional and organic produce patches near you.
Vollmer Farm, Bunn, N.C.
Location: Northeast of Raleigh
Season: April through early June
JenEhr Family Farm, Sun Prairie, Wis.
Location: Southern Wisconsin
Season: Late June
Swanton Berry Farm , Davenport, Calif.
Location: Between San Francisco and Santa Cruz
Season: June through October
Adam’s Berry Farm, Burlington, Vt.
Location: Northern Vermont
Season: Mid-June through early July
The Golden Earthworm Organic Farm, Jamesport, N.Y.
Location: East End of Long Island