Monday, August 27, 2012

The importance of supporting U-pick Farms this year (& every year!)

Fresh picked raspberries from Makielski's!
I finally got around to doing some U-pick this weekend!  I've been getting great local fruit from my Farmers' Market, but it seems like each summer-fruit has passed me by before I could catch it U-pick style; strawberries, tart cherries, blueberries... since raspberries are my favorite summer fruit, I wanted to make sure I got some before the season ends!

While it's unfortunate that there aren't any organic fruit farms in this region (that I know of), I think it's important to support the local fruit crops we do have- strawberriesblackberries & raspberries, blueberries, cherries and apples just to name some of the local availability.

I've made a decision that for me, locally grown produce is what I'd rather purchase, vs organic produce from California. At least I know my money is staying in the region, and many times even farms that aren't certified organic are "no spray" or at least a less-toxic pesticide plan that big conventional farms.

My little sis Sam picking at Wasem Farm

U-pick is one kind of farm I'm used to supporting: growing up, my family didn't really do farmers' markets or farm stands, but we picked some type of berry almost every year, and apple and pumpkin picking with family friends signified fall for us. I've continued the tradition now that I'm settled here in Ypsi: Raspberries in the summer, Apples and Pumpkins in the fall. Over the years, my husband and my sister have joined in the tradition of picking apples, and carving pumpkins. My first "date" with Sam after being newly matched as Big Sister and Little Sister in October of 2004 was pumpkin carving in my residence hall's kitchen at EMU :)  As an adult, I've also added new traditions of my own, including canning, freezing, and growing some of my own fruits!

It's so important to continue to patronize our local farms, especially in years like this, where in Michigan most of our tree fruit crops were destroyed by a late spring frost. Just one example of the devastation that occured is at Wasem Fruit Farm, the farm that Mike and I have gone to for the past 4 or 5 years. The owners sent out this email to their customers just a few weeks ago, essentially stating that their apples and other tree crops were lost this season. While they do grow other non-tree fruit as well as pumpkins, apples are a big part of their farm, and the delicious apple cider they make will be also un-available this season.
In the email, the owners reached out to their customers, to ask how they could continue to retain our patronage in this tough year- would we come out to the farm to buy doughnuts still? What other kinds of features could get us to come out to the farm? I truly believe that each person's support can make a difference. Having farms like these is a big asset to our communities, and I plan to go out of my way to support Wasem and other local farms in whatever way I can. 

As you're grocery shopping this season, think about the alternative ways you could get your fruit fix! U-Pick operations are a bit of work for you, but they're usually cheaper than retail fruit prices. They also give you a direct connection to your food- the only more direct thing you could do is grow it yourself! If you're looking to try out a U-Pick, there is a nice state-by-state directory here and an Ann Arbor area directory here.
Happy Picking!

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