U-Pick: The Next Best Thing to Growing Your Own
Though Kris and I are growing our own green beans this summer, we don't have nearly enough for her grand plans. “I need more beans,” she told me last week. “I want to do some canning.” I hate green beans, but I agreed to lend a hand. On Friday, we braved the heat to make a trip to Hartnell Farms, where we picked 18 pounds of beans.
Many Get Rich Slowly readers have indicated that they lack the time, space, or energy to grow their own food. They like the idea of a garden, but the actual process isn't something they can incorporate into their lifestyles. (Sometimes even container gardens just won't work.)
For many of these folks, U-pick farms are a great alternative. It's easy and fun to pick fresh produce from local growers. It can save you money, too. For example, here are actual prices for local green beans:
- Grocery store: $1.99/pound
- Produce stand: $1.79/pound
- Farmers market: $1.00/pound
- U-pick: $0.60/pound
U-pick offers other advantages than just price. You're able to connect with the people who grow the food, for example. While we picked beans on Friday, we were assisted by Cameron, the farmer's four-year-old grandson. Barefoot Cameron was happy to tell us all about the place. He also offered us eggplant.
Readers in the Portland area should check out the Tri-County Farm Fresh Produce Guide. Most major metropolitan areas probably offer a similar resource. For general information, check out PickYourOwn.org, a site devoted to helping people find U-pick fruit and vegetable farms. The site features:
- A state-by-state directory of U-pick farms (there are also listings for farms in Canada, Australia, U.K., and more!)
- Information about canning, freezing, and making jellies
- Picking tips
- Recommended books
Make no mistake: picking your own produce is work — but it's fun work. There's always the farmer's market if you want fresh local produce, but you don't have the time or inclination to pick it yourself. It's usually not a bargain, but it's certainly better quality than the fruit than you'll find in most stores.
Kris and I have been harvesting food together for almost twenty years. In the summer of 1989, when we were first dating, we made a couple trips to pick strawberries and peaches. For the five years we lived in apartments, U-pick was the cheapest way for us to get fresh fruit. Even now when we grow a lot of our own food, we make several U-pick trips each year.
Our Friday trip to pick green beans cost us an hour of our time, 60 cents per pound, and a couple of sore backs. On Saturday, Kris and her sister put up 18 quarts of beans. As she's snacking on the beans this winter, she'll enjoy them all the more because she picked them herself.
Farm photo by Jen. Bits and pieces of this article originally appeared in last year's brief guide to the berry patch.