Why trek out to a farm to pick berries when there are berries galore at the grocery store? The answer comes the first time you bite into one of the fresh-picked gems bursting with summer sweetness. Far from the bulbous, watery giants you find in the produce aisle, farm fresh berries will leave you craving them all year long. And it’s not just about the flavor, berry picking is also a fun family activity, giving kids a glimpse of farm life.
Three berries are generally available for picking in Colorado: strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Timing can vary from year to year, but you might find a crop of strawberries ready as early as June or July, and raspberries or blackberries as late as September. With such a short window for picking, it’s helpful to be prepared. Here are our best berry picking tips.
Perhaps the hardest part of the berry-picking gig is waiting for word that berries are ready to pick. Berries ripen in their own time, so keep an eye on the farm’s website beginning around Memorial Day. As the growing season progresses, the farmers will post expected pick dates, but they can change. Check back often. Learning this part of farm life is a valuable way for kids to learn patience and gain a deeper appreciation for the food on their plates. Sow a couple seeds at home to help illustrate how long it takes a plant to grow and develop.
Earlier Is Better
When picking day arrives, plan to get to the farm early—ideally before it opens. Depending on the farm, there may be a line of eager pickers waiting to nab the juicy little jewels. Berries are often limited, and the later you arrive, the greater chance berries will be gone or the kids will have to hunt harder to find the ripe ones. Also, when picking with kids, manage your expectations. Plan to pick just a couple pints of strawberries with the kids so the experience doesn’t overwhelm them. Come back on your own if you plan for a heavy picking day.
Protect Your Skin
Berries love the sun, so there is rarely shade where you’ll be picking. Be sure to cover the family in sunscreen and wear hats, protective clothing, and sturdy shoes. Even with an early arrival to the field it will get hot, so bring your water bottles and don’t weigh yourself down with heavy bags or backpacks. U-pick farms will provide you with the baskets, boxes, or buckets that you need to gather your berries.
Part of the fun of berry picking is the hunt. Kids are at an advantage for this. Berries often hide under leaves or under other berries in a bunch. Gently looking underneath strawberry leaves or brushing aside parts of a blackberry bush will reveal hidden gems that the last picker missed. Make a fun game of finding the hidden berries.
Be a Good Neighbor
Farmers who invite folks onto their land are a generous lot. There is fun to be had on the farm, but it’s also the farmer’s home and they work hard on their fields. Be good guests by walking in designated rows, reading signs, and following the farm’s safety guidelines. If you are lucky enough to run into the farmer, say hi and thank you, but remember, they may be busy tending the crowds or the crops.
Kids may also encounter farm animals like free roaming chickens, cats, or dogs, or beehives housing farm pollinators. Use the opportunity to share the importance of being gentle and respectful to all animals and beneficial insects.
Oh, it’s tempting to pop a bright, juicy berry or two in your mouth while you’re picking. But, it’s best to resist that temptation. Even on an organic farm, it’s smart to wait until you can rinse off the fruit and properly wash everyone’s hands. Most u-pick farms have sinks, and sometimes picnic tables, near where you pay, so you can stop for a snack before heading home.
3 Berry Picking Farms Near Denver
- Berry Patch Farms This certified organic farm in Brighton grows u-pick strawberries, black raspberries, and red and gold raspberries along with vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
- Happy Apple Farm in Penrose grows u-pick blackberries, and for fall fun, there are u-pick apples and pumpkins. Don’t miss the cute farm store loaded with local jams and other goodies.
- Garden Sweet in Fort Collins follows sustainable and organic practices and grows strawberries and raspberries for limited u-pick weekends in August. Members of the farm’s CSA have regular u-pick opportunities throughout the summer.
Fresh Berries 15 Ways
You may just eat them like candy. But if you picked a flat and need some ideas to use them up, here are 15 fresh berry treats kids will love.
- Jam (Find a recipe on page 28)
- Ice cream
- Puree fruit to add to yogurt
- Homemade fruit leather
- Fruit crisp, crumble, or cobbler
- Berry shortcake
- Homemade freezer pops
- Berry syrup or sauce
- Smashed in lemonade
- A layered fruit, yogurt, and granola parfait
- Frozen for a taste of summer on a winter day