July is when blueberries come into season, both wild and cultivated high bush. Depending on how the weather has been and which part of the country you live in, it can be anytime from the beginning of the month through the first few weeks. Here are some tips for visiting a blueberry farm.
Call Before You Leave/Check the Website
If you aren’t sure what the hours of the farm are, or what the weather might be like, or if they can accommodate your Uncle Charlie’s wheelchair, call first. There is nothing more disappointing then driving there, especially if you have to drive a long way, only to find out you made your trip in vain. The farm is more than happy to answer whatever questions you have before hand on the phone. Weather is a fickle thing and it might not be raining at your house, but an hour away it could be pouring buckets. On a similar note check to see if the farm has a website, or a Facebook page. Often times the information you need is going to be listed right on the page. They will tell you what their policies are, what the weather conditions are, what they are currently picking and what their hours are.
Leave Your Strollers/Large Bags/Pets/Buckets at Home
Strollers are awkward to maneuver through the rows of a blueberry farm, and often the terrain is rough. It also makes it hard for the farm staff to keep an eye on potential “shoplifters”. The same is true for large bags. If you must bring a large bag, plan on leaving it secured in the trunk of your car while you are picking.
Most farms have a no-pets policy. This is for the safety of the visitors, and any animals they may have on their farm. Please leave your dogs at home.
You bought the cute berry picking baskets from the local basket making company. You have pails that your great-aunt Sheila picked in when she was a girl. Your family has been using the same buckets for decades. Keep them at home and put them on display, or take them hiking and use them to pick wild berries. Most pick your own farms provide you with pails to use and have policies that prevent you from using your own.
Visit Early In the Day
Blueberries thrive in hot, sunny conditions, and the fields they grow in offer very little shade. The temperature might only read 82*f on the thermostat, but out in the sun of the field it is going to feel a lot hotter. On top of that, the bushes hold the heat and it is easy on a really hot day to get overheated. The best time for picking is in the morning, before the berries get too hot. After noontime on a day when the temperatures soar into the high 80’s and 90’s, the berries will be hot and soft and once you get home they won’t keep as well.
Wear a Hat and Bring Water
A large floppy hat that keeps the sun off of your face and neck is the best choice. If all you have is a baseball cap that will certainly work as well. The goal is to keep the sun off of your head and provide you with a little bit of shade and coolness. Picking blueberries is not hard work, but on a hot day you can quickly become dehydrated in the heat of the field. Drinking lots of water will keep you safe and allow you to enjoy your time at the farm.
Leave the Bag in the Bucket
If your farm hands you a pail with a plastic bag in it, please keep it there. You may have read Blueberries for Sal with your children before you left, and they want to hear the “plink, plink, plink” like in the book, but after a handful or two of berries, they aren’t going to plink anyhow. The bag is there to help the staff weigh your berries when you are finished picking, and for you to get your berries home safely and easily. Those pails may have been on the farm for a long time and could be a little dirty and rusty. You don’t want your hard picked berries right in them now, do you?
It’s Pick Your Own, Not Self-Serve
Of course, you need to taste a FEW of the berries to make sure that you like the variety that you are picking, especially if you have multiple varieties to pick from. Selling berries is the farmer’s livelihood, and if you eat as many berries as you pick, you are essentially stealing from them. Pick to your hearts delight, then take your berries home and enjoy them.