Your kids have probably helped select produce from the grocery store or a farmer’s market. But have they ever gone into a field to hand pick their own fruits or vegetables?
A day trip to one of the area’s pick-your-own farms is a family activity that "city kids" will love. Illinois and the surrounding states offer a variety of pick-your-own farm choices—often with petting zoos, hay rides, corn mazes and other family-friendly activities. The picking season begins in May with spring’s first asparagus and goes until the pumpkins are all gone in October.
Here is what you need to know to start planning your trip:
Begin by visiting www.pickyourown.org, a comprehensive resource for the pick-your-own farms in the area. The farms and orchards are listed by state and county. Good local options include Susie’s Garden Patch (susiesgardenpatch.com) in Garden Prairie where your family can pick strawberries, raspberries, corn and many other crops. Another family-friendly choice is Garden Patch Farms and Orchards (www.gardenpatchfarms.com), just 45 minutes southwest of Chicago in Homer Glen where the pick-your-own options range from cherries to peppers to apples.
Keep in mind some general guidelines when planning a trip to a pick-your-own farm:
• Call the farm first to verify details and crop availability. Many crops (particularly strawberries) are only harvested for a short time.
• Confirm whether you need to bring your own containers and ask what types of payment the farm accepts.
• Go early to get the best selection because fields can be picked over as the day goes on.
• Be prepared with plenty of drinks, snacks and sunscreen. Wear old, comfortable clothes and shoes because harvesting crops can be messy work.
• Be sure to ask the farm experts how best to harvest, store and use your freshly picked produce.
After a hard day’s work (and play) at the farm, the best part of the pick-your-own experience is devouring all of the fresh produce you have gathered up.