Harvesting Your Local Produce: Visit a U-Pick Farm
Everybody loves their fruits and veggies in the summer time but most people don’t actually have any knowledge of where they come from. A trip to a local farm rather than the grocery store could make for a nice afternoon and an eye-opening experience.
Fresh From Florida is a marketing organization operated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which maintains a list of U-Pick farms throughout Florida that allows visitors to hand-pick their own fresh fruit and vegetables while offering them the freshest produce at a lower price. The website does not have a complete list however, as farms are not required to participate in the program.
Tavis Douglass, owner of Wet Hammock Nursery, said Fresh From Florida is perfect for teaching people about agriculture. “People can learn how food is being produced and get to pick food grown right from local farmers,” he said.
Wet Hammock Nursery is the U-Pick operation of the Douglass family farm located on Highway 318 in Citra, Fla. Douglass began working at a local commercial blueberry operation where he developed the skills to grow fruit crops. In the midst of a bad economy, he decided to refocus his family farm from growing landscape trees to growing edible crops for U-Pick, such as blueberries, blackberries and peaches. They are open to the public during the early summer months.
He explained that although there are a variety of U-Pick farms in the Alachua County region, blueberry growing is one of the most popular. He said the Alachua County region is the largest blueberry growing area in the state of Florida because of the acidic soil type and climate type.
Although there are a variety of crops grown on different farms, it is important to pay attention to which fruits and vegetables are in season.
According to Douglass, crops seasoned for the summer include blueberries, blackberries, peaches, sweet corn, cucumbers and yellow squash, among others. Some other crops that grow in the cooler weather include strawberries and cabbages.
Making a trip to a U-Pick farm will provide an enriching experience, while sending you home with the freshest produce available.
“The public is used to seeing their fruits in a clam shell in Publix. This way they are able to see where it really comes from,” Douglass said.
Visit a U-Pick Farm
Rogers Farm is located on 1000 acres of farmland between Gainesville and LaCrosse. Six generations of Rogers have worked on land and they currently have 75 employees and 100 field pickers.
Strawberries are U-pick, but a variety of other produce is also available depending on the season. Starting in April, green and roma bush beans, pickling cucumbers and yellow squash are available, while other select beans, peas, corn and okra are available beginning in June. U-pick is $1.50 per lb. but they also offer flats, half flats, quarts and pints that they will pick for you. Rogers has been selling produce at their main location, SR 121 and NW 156th Ave. for 32 years. rogersfarm.webplus.net/index.html
Brown’s Farm, located in Hawthorne, Fla., at 18120 NE State Rd 26, offers produce with “fresh and bursting flavor.” Visitors can enjoy a great atmosphere while also taking advantage of their wide selection of produce.
U-pick strawberries are ready for you to pick beginning in March and are $1.50 per lb. In addition to strawberries, they also sell jams, jellies, peas, watermelons, sweet corn, squash, greens, tomatoes, blueberries, green beans, cabbage, okra, pecans, etc. depending on the season. Their hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Gainesville Organic Blueberry Farm
Gainesville Organic Blueberry Farm’s mission is to foster harmony in the community and help provide access to fresh local food, while working together to support and help preserve its historic neighborhood farm.
The farm is located at 1621 SE 15th Street in Gainesville, Fla and offers organic blueberry picking mid-June through mid-July.
Jonesville Persimmons is a persimmon and fruit tree nursery located at 116 NW 170th Street in Newberry, Fla. It only offers picking for persimmons September through October, but has fruit trees available all year round.
BlueBela Farms LLC is family blueberry farm in High Springs, Fla. It is run by a city family who decided to go simple and live as green as possible. They open their doors to local and state-wide families for U-Pick season mid-April through mid-May.
BlueBela offers blueberries and beautiful scenery. It is located at 7650 NE 40th Street. Call for availability at (386) 454-3116.
Forest Grove Tree Farm
Forest Grove Tree Farm is a tree farm in Alachua, Fla. that offers pecan and chestnut picking year-round. Although they are open anytime, chestnuts are in season late August through early November, while pecans are in season late October through the end of December.
The farm is located at 24115 NW 94th Ave. Making an appointment is recommended.
Wet Hammock Nursery
Wet Hammock Nursery is owned and operated by the Douglass Family, seventh generation Floridians. They specialize in U-Pick production of blueberries, blackberries and peaches, as well as seasonal production of vegetable and hydroponic crops. They are open to the public during the early summer months for picking.
The farm is located at 4500 E Highway 318 in Citra, FL. Visit facebook.com/wethammock or wethammockfarm.com for more information.