Summer is the prime time to load your kids into the car, head to a local farm and pick some fruits and vegetables. You’ll be helping your kids “pick up” some healthy eating habits while also creating some fun family memories.
You-pick-it farms, also known as u-pick farms, provide the opportunity for your family to pick produce while learning why that produce is an important part of your diet. When you visit a u-pick farm, the farmer will teach you how to find and harvest the freshest, most delicious fruits and vegetables and discuss their nutritional values.
“U-pick farms are exactly what the name implies — a place where you pick fruit and vegetables right off the plant,” says Meriruth Cohenour, agritourism coordinator at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. “The most popular type of u-pick farm in Oklahoma right now is berry farms. Strawberries and peaches are also abundant, while grapes, sand plums and vegetables are smaller in quantity but not hard to find.”
Fill your plate with healthy fruits and vegetables
Your sun-kissed farm adventure is an easy way to start talking to your family about eating healthy. Half our plate should be fruits and vegetables, right? Does your family know why people should eat fruits? Do they know it helps avoid cancer?
Adding more fruit to your diet adds essential nutrients including vitamin C and folate that are often under-consumed. Vitamin C is vital to the growth and repair of body tissues. It helps heal cuts and wounds, while also keeping teeth and gums healthy.
Folate assists the body in creating red blood cells. Women who may become pregnant are especially in need of folate, also known as folic acid, which they should consume from foods as well as in synthetic form to reduce the risk of problems during fetal development.
What about vegetables? There is more to a vegetable than its low-fat content and low-calorie count. Vegetables help control blood pressure, cholesterol, bowel function, oral health and many other things, too.
Filling your plate with fruit and eating blackberries with your oatmeal on Sunday morning is more delicious and exciting when you picked them at the peak of freshness on Saturday afternoon. Instead of riding in a truck and sitting on a shelf for days, those berries were on the bush and in the sunshine until your family was plucking them and popping them into your basket.
The farmers at u-pick farms are passionate about lifelong healthy eating and helping you get a taste of the experience of raising your own food.
Visit Agape House Berry Farm
Located southwest of Oklahoma City in Mustang, Agape House Berry Farm is less than 30 minutes away from OKC. They are open for u-pick visitors from April through July. In April and May you’ll find fields of strawberries, and in June and July the bushes will be heavy with ripened blackberries.
Pati Colston is one of the farm owners. She and her husband wanted to get more involved in Oklahoma’s growing agritourism market when they got the idea for a self-harvest farm.
“I’ve spent a lot of my life as a social worker and I’ve always worked with kids and families,” Colston says. We talked about starting a winery, but wanted to go a more ‘kids and families’ route. The most rewarding part is seeing kids with juice running down their cheeks while they are learning about where their food comes from. Working with kids and families is the easy part; learning to farm berries was the hard part. It’s a lot harder work than I knew, but it’s been rewarding for us.”
She says they both simply want people to know more and to understand where their food actually comes from.
“There is just nothing like picking a piece of fruit straight off the vine and eating it,” Colston says. “The flavor is incredible. You spend so much time seeing kids inside with technology, and we just wanted to get them outside, in the sunshine and the fresh air. We’re going to keep moving forward and see what else we can bring people out to the farm to see, touch, taste and learn about.”
Visit Canadian Valley Farms
Andy Wooliver and his family run the Canadian Valley Farms, south of Oklahoma City in Lexington. Their sustainable family farm uses natural practices to care for the land, crops and animals.
“We do offer you-pick-it for our visitors, but it isn’t the largest part of our income,” Wooliver says. “It does allow us to educate people about sustainable farming practices and discuss the natural order of the farm. We are in the process of transitioning to organic, and it’s a three-year process. We are in the middle of it, and we’re always excited to talk about it.”
The farm raises several fruits, vegetables and livestock. They are excited to share the experience with you, but Andy says it’s important to remember to always call the farm before you drive out to pick fruit or vegetables.
“We only have what is in season and sometimes we sell out quickly,” Wooliver says. “In the spring we have strawberries, but they are almost completely gone now. The beginning of July brings the okra and the tomatoes out, and people love those. In the middle of July the watermelons and the cantaloupe should be ready. This fall we will have the pumpkin patch open with a hay ride through the rest of our working farm.”
While you are picking the freshest produce of the season, you can also learn about how they raise their livestock.
“We breed and raise pasture-based Dexter cattle,” Wooliver says. “They are a purebred, heritage breed, and we continue to raise them to preserve the genetic diversity in livestock. Our vegetables are all heirloom varietals, and we try to educate those who visit about the differences in flavor between these and hybrids varietals. The hybrids were selected for production factors, so taste always came as a secondary factor.”
Explore the u-pick farm options across Oklahoma
There are many farms across the state waiting for your family to drive through their gates. Oklahoma Agritourism keeps an updated list of u-pick farms, which you can filter by region to find one in your area.
“People are seeking opportunities to connect to the world around them, especially when it comes to the food they eat,” Meriruth says. “They are curious as to where the food comes from, how it grows and who produces it. To meet this demand, farmers have started inviting consumers onto the farm.”
Get to know your farmer neighbors and share the love of healthy and nutritious food with your family by visiting a u-pick farm this summer. Whether you eat the fresh produce in the middle of the field or prolong the adventure by creating a culinary masterpiece in the kitchen at home, you surely won’t regret the trip.
For more information, read our list of more fruits and vegetables reaching peak ripeness during the summertime.