Picking Bliss: Make a Lifetime of Memories on Oklahoma’s Farms
Farms across Oklahoma are throwing open their gates with an invitation to enjoy bountiful harvests.
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Nothing creates cherished memories like family trips, and Oklahoma’s growing agritourism adventure – where agriculture and tourism intersect – offers travelers the opportunity to experience a cornucopia of family-oriented activities and events on a host of farms.
Whether picking berries, peaches, green beans or other delectable fruits and vegetables on an Oklahoma farm, you’re giving your child memories and valuable life lessons, all in one fun visit. Alice Waters, American chef, author and founder of The Edible Schoolyard Program (she also founded Chez Panisse and the Chez Panisse Foundation), writes, "I believe that every child in this world needs to have a relationship with the land ... to know how to nourish themselves ... and to know how to connect with the community around them."
And speaking of community, u-pick farms are often friendly community gathering places where more than just the produce is delicious and local. Depending on the location, home-baked goods, jams, crafts and artwork are often available alongside mounds of fresh produce. As an added bonus, you get a sense of the fabric of a community and connect with the farmers growing the food you eat.
The breadth and depth of produce found at a u-pick farm is truly amazing – everything from apples to eggplants, potatoes to watermelons, carrots to blackberries may be found in season. Once you bite into a luscious peach or juicy blackberry you just plucked, it’s no longer a mystery why fresh is best.
Dood McDougal owns Dewgul Berry Farm near Atoka. Demand for McDougal’s blackberries, blueberries and other fresh produce is so great that people drive from other states just to experience the fresh flavor and picking experience at his farm.
“I sell every berry that grows on the place. The reason – the best treat is the one you pick. People have no idea how different the taste is of a freshly picked fruit or vegetable from a farm, but once they do, they always come back for more,” said McDougal.
The best treat is the one you pick.
Follow these guidelines for picking your own produce:
Harvesting your own blueberries, peaches, corn, green beans and more is easy, even without any previous picking experience. Most farms are more than happy to give you a few quick tips about how to pick a particular crop, and they may even offer advice on how best to prepare, eat or store your hand-picked bounty.
Always call before heading to a u-pick farm. Produce is affected by weather, and farm conditions can change rapidly.
For the best chance of picking plenty of produce in pleasant conditions, go early in the day when the produce is at its best and before crowds hit the fields and heat is more intense.
Call ahead to ask about picking containers. While most farms furnish picking containers, there’s usually a charge for them, and while some farms allow you to bring your own, they may want to weigh them before you start picking. If you do use your own containers, you’ll find that different containers work best for different produce. If you’re picking a variety of produce, take a variety of containers, including baskets, plastic dishpans and smaller plastic storage containers.
Since some freshly-picked produce can deteriorate rapidly once picked, if you plan to be gone most of the day, bring a cooler with ice to help keep your bounty nice and cool. Parking your car in shade, if available, helps too.
A good supply of drinking water, snacks or a picnic lunch, as well as sunscreen and a hat are essentials. Old shoes and clothes will keep you comfortable, and you won’t have to worry about getting muddy or wet. Insect repellant can really come in handy.
Don’t forget a camera to capture the memories!