Yakima Valley U-Pick – Farm Fresh Traditions
July 5, 2011 by Colleda Monick
Our recent spate of hot weather is helping ready a bevvy of flavorful fruits and vegetables. As harvest starts for cherries and other farm products the u-pick season hits a crescendo.
Truly Farm Fresh
An essential summertime tradition for many, u-pick promises a perfect celebration of the Valley’s local harvests. After all, you can’t find fruits and vegetables more “farm-fresh” than those you pick yourself. These days, u-pick fans have dozens of local destinations to choose from and many follow the season from one end of the Valley to the other, harvesting everything from the earliest cherries to late-summer heirloom tomatoes and autumn apples. For home cooks who place a priority on eating local, u-pick provides a way to extend the fresh flavors of summer through the year, whether you freeze or preserve your favorite produce.
Taking part in agricultural traditions that have thrived in the Yakima Valley for more than 150 years, the u-pick experience often allows you to work along-side growers in orchards their families have operated for generations while the valley has grown and changed around them. Some, like Johnson Family Orchards and Barrett Orchards, were once countryside destinations. Now in the middle of town, they provide convenient u-pick destinations on major arterials or near freeway and highway access.
The U-Pick Experience
Plan ahead to make the most of the u-pick experience. Several local u-pick operations host festivals to kick off seasonal harvests and many offer spots for leisurely picnics, tours, special activities for family fun and even shops where you can find everything from specialty foods, garden décor and gifts. Often, you can take home a variety of local fruits and vegetables from onsite produce stands along with your own harvest.
For specialty items and gift shops, visit Washington Fruit Place at Barrett Orchards in Yakima, Thompson Farm Market in Naches, and Bella Terra Gardens. Barrett Orchards, Selah Ridge Lavender Farm, and Bill’s Berry Farm each host seasonal harvest festivals.
In Grandview, Bill’s Berry Farm is one operation that promises a true farm-fresh experience. In addition to u-pick blueberries, cherries, and apples make a date to harvest pumpkins and u-pick flowers. Plan ahead to attend seasonal festivals and leave time for a tour on the hayride shuttle and kids activities, including petting and play areas and a tree fort!
Wherever you go, remember these key tips:
- Plan to pick early, especially in Yakima’s summertime heat.
- Call ahead to check availablity of you’re looking for specific varieties.
- Bring your own, sturdy containers to prevent bruising.
- If you’re new to u-pick, as for instruction prior to picking. Otherwise, you might take a bunch of leaves with your apple or cherries and that means less fruit to harvest next year.
- When picking berries, walk between the rows, not between the plants.
- Wear closed-toe shoes – no flip flops!!
- Wear sunscreen or protective clothing.
- Keep children with you at all times.
- Check ahead before bringing dogs.
U-Pick Destinations and Planning
Take a leisurely drive to find u-pick farms from one end of the Yakima Valley to the other. If you’d like to plan ahead, click here for detailed information.