Are you considering a pick-your-own experience?

Recently, the popularity of P-Y-O family outings has increased. It is no wonder. We can enjoy not onlythe fruits and vegetables we may harvest, but we also get to experience some time on a real farm. Weare fortunate each month brings the availability of a different fruit or vegetable. What is available for usto pick varies on location, varieties planted, and weather conditions, so always call the farm so you don’tmiss the products you are after or the times they are available to pick. In this part of the country we arefinishing up blueberries and blackberries. Peaches, tomatoes, green beans, figs, raspberries and earlyapples are going full steam this month. Additionally, we are looking forward to more apples, grapes,pumpkins and winter squashes later this fall.

I always bring snacks, hand towels and plenty of liquids to drink. I typically include containers for pickingand for carrying the fruit home. This can depend on the farm we are visiting as some farms providecontainers. We dress in old clothes so we are comfortable and not worried about staining or tearing. Ahat can offer protection from the sun. In the fall, extra layers keep you warm. Don’t forget sunscreen forthe back of your neck and exposed skin.

The fun doesn’t have to end with just picking the fruit. Some farms also offer hay rides, petting zoos,corn mazes, gift shops, even restaurants. And if your children tire before you’ve gotten your fill of fruit,most places also sell pre-picked produce as an added convenience.

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Every farm is a bit different. Some have more relaxed rules, others are more strict. You need to find afarm that matches your needs - a farm with strict rules would not make for a happy experience withadventurous, young children. But you also need to teach your children that the plants are living things tobe cared for and respected, not abused, and the farmer feeds his family and pays his bills from the well-being of these plants. It is best to note and follow all rules and regulations posted by owners at theirpicking locations.

Below are a few common expectations when visiting a P-Y-O farm:

·Look for the check-in and check-out areas. Before picking, note whether you will be charged according to weight, volume or count. Also, inquire if there is a minimum quantity requirement.

·Place trash in proper receptacles or take it with you.

·Stay clear of parked or moving tractors and equipment.

·Health codes usually require no pets in the fields.

·Always call in advance to find out if the fruit/vegetables you want are available, to get directions, check their opening and closing hours and to ask if children are welcome.

·Walk in the rows, don’t step on plants!

Keeping the fruit cool is a good rule of thumb. You can also check with your local Extension office forstorage tips. Be certain to plan ahead if you intend to freeze, can, or make jam from some of yourharvest.

For additional information on a great you-pick farm experience check: http://www.pickyourown.org/.