Down on the U-Pick Farm

Text & Photograhs | Erin Vanderberg

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As we become more conscious of the origins of the foods we eat, U-Pick farms are regaining their popularity. They appeal to families looking for fun and educational outings, to locavores striving to eat food grown within 100 miles of their homes, to foodies seeking the freshest produce at the cheapest price and to those who just want the pickin’ experience.

But, U-Picks are also at a critical juncture. Over the last decade, several area U-Pick’s have closed their fields to self-service and have relied instead on their farm stands to hock their produce, claiming that people don’t seem to have the time to pick anymore.

If you are looking for a weekend outing, make supporting your local farmers a destination. You’ll find a vast variety of produce is available to be picked within a reasonable radius, including vegetables, berries, fruits, flowers and harvest crops. Some orchards offer the additional enticements of wine tastings and music, while other farms encourage family fun with educational demonstrations, playgrounds and even mini-golf.

Call ahead or go online to learn what crops are ripe for the picking. You can generally expect that green leafy veggies are ready in May; flowers and strawberries pop in June; tomatoes and berries ripen in July and August, along with corn and most garden variety vegetables; tree fruits and melons are just right in September; and harvest crops like pumpkins, onions and gourds mark the end of the growing season in October and November.

Kelder’s Farm

5755 Rte 209 (8 miles northeast of Ellenville), Kerhonkson, NY, 12446

845/626-7137,

A northbound journey up Route 209 yields plenty of excellent farm stands, but none surpass the sheer magnitude of activity that is offered at Kelder’s farm, a family-owned 100 acre U-Pick in the heart of Ulster County. You’ll know you’re there when you see Chomsky, their 2007 Guinness Book of World Record-holding gnome. Their U-Pick fields offer every vegetable from “Asparagus to Zucchini” as the season progresses, currants and berries from July-August and a corn maze in the harvest season. You can play 10 holes of mini-golf at the unique farm-themed Gnome on the Grange course designed by artist Maria Reidelbach where old farm implements are incorporated as hazards. A petting zoo featuring Walter the donkey and a wooden playground provides fun for the kids; the Kelders also host field trips throughout the school year where kids are given a chance to milk a cow, hearkening back to the Kelder’s roots as dairy farmers. There is a picnic area that overlooks the fields; you can either pack a lunch or put one together from the fields and farmstand. Folks camping at the Rondout Valley Camping Resort in Accord, NY have the perk of getting market goods delivered on a wagon driven by the Kelders every Wednesday and Saturday. Because the Kelder family have been farming since 1836, their farmstand is a quasi-museum of agricultural artifacts and other antiques accumulated during their many years living on the land.  They also have a greenhouse dedicated to growing flowers.

Steve Boyer and Wendy Hollender travel to Kelder’s Farm from their weekend place in Spring Glen, NY. “Picking produce ourselves brings us closer to the actual experience of planting and harvesting food for the table,” says Steve

The Cutting Garden

4055 Route 52, Youngsville, NY 12791

845/482-3333 

Owned by Anne Hart and Fritz Mayer, The Cutting Garden is now in its fifth summer as a destination for fresh-cut flowers.  They have over 100 varieties in bloom (including the coveted lisianthus, bred from a Texas wildflower), an herb garden for the culinary cutter and a handful of berry and vegetable varieties all ripe for the picking. With prices starting at three blooms for $1, it is hard to find a better and fresher way to fill your vases. Anne or her assistant will cut for you, or hand you the scissors and bucket and let you create your own display. Wedding and other celebratory bouquets and orders are welcomed.

While there, visit the store’s delightful assortment of antiques and collectibles as well as pottery, jewelry, handbags, free-trade chocolate, gardening items, artwork, fabrics and much more.

Paupack Blueberry Farm

Gumbletown Road, HC1, Box 14-E, Paupack, PA 18451

570/226-9702

At Paupack Blueberry Farm, the Coutts family has planted 27 acres with an unbelievable variety (25 this year) of blueberries. The names of the berries indicate the North American origins of the bush: Atlantic, Bluetta, Concord, Dixie, Jersey, Patriot and the Paupacken, to name a few. Blueberry picking kicks off in late July. When the berries are in season, the blueberry-laden bakery goods are a main attraction. Of course, you and the kids can fill your buckets and go home and bake your own.

Applewood Orchards & Winery

82 Four Corners Rd, Warwick, NY

845/986-1684 or 845/988-9292

 

Warwick Valley Winery

114 Little York Road, Warwick, New York 10990

845/258-4858

Living in or around the “Big Apple,” there is no shortage of U-Pick apple orchards. But if you want to add a little spirit to the equation, two orchards in Warwick—Applewood and Warwick Valley—double as wineries, fermenting the fruits of their vineyards onsite. While the U-Pick does not begin until September (apples and pumpkins are available to pick at Applewood and apples and pears at Warwick Valley), the wineries are open on weekends year-round. At Applewood, live music, puppetry, face painting and wagon rides are possible events d’jour from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., while Warwick Valley, open from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., has a café onsite and every Saturday and Sunday from 2-5pm there is music on the patio.

Historic Harvest

Bicentennial farmers have been picking since 1790 in Middletown

Pierson’s Farm

1448 Rte 211, Middletown, NY, 10940

 845/386-1882,

The historic marker makes it easy to spot the Pierson’s Farm on Route 211 between Otisville, NY and Middletown. It states that this particular acreage has been under cultivation since 1790 when a man named Josiah Pierson first settled there. Now the kids being raised on the farm are the eighth generation of farmers whose surname remains Pierson. The Piersons are cattle farmers raising natural beef, but they dabble in everything from baked goods and homemade jams in their Country Shoppe to the festive side of farming, with U-Pick mums and pumpkins and holiday trees. During the fall, they celebrate the harvest with hayrides, corn mazes, haunted barns and hot cider. U-Pickers will also delight in their raspberries, which ripen in September.

Check these websites to locate a U-Pick Farm near you:

Hudson Valley U-Pick’em Farms, Markets, Orchards

New York State Department of Agriculture’s Farm Fresh Guide

PickYourOwn.Org:  Where you can find a pick-your-own farm near you!

NY Apple Country

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