I recently had the opportunity to attend the Strawberry Picking Festival at Stehly Farms Organics in Escondido. Now, I must confess I am a bit of a crunchy mama most of the time. I do grow a lot of my own fruits and veggies in my backyard, and I use organic and locally grown products when possible. My son is used to seeing something he picked in the morning show up in his lunch or dinner that same day. That being said, I had never actually been to a local farm to pick my own produce and neither had my son. I had no idea what to expect at this event. I had high hopes of course, but nothing prepared me for the incredible scene at the farm that morning. I really wish I had done something like that before!
First thing we noticed was that it was a well-attended event. Next, while parking was limited, the perfectly ripe strawberries were definitely not. There was row after row of little green plants full of beautiful red fruit. The best part? The look on my son’s face when I told him he could pick a row and start searching for strawberries to fill his basket. He was so thrilled! He isn’t typically the type of boy to think too long or hard about his food (as long as there is enough of it when he’s hungry!), but my goodness was he careful when selecting the perfect berries. We walked up and down the rows as he made comments about some being so big, or really tiny, or not quite red enough, or just right. When he found the right ones they went into the basket. More than a few didn’t even make it that far, he was just too excited to eat them.
After we had filled a couple baskets we walked off the field and into what can best be described as a little farmer’s market with a play area for kids. There were fruit smoothies, fresh juices, produce, and so many locally made items for sale. There were also a few really delicious food stands making all sorts of different lunch fare. Of course, within about 2 minutes my son lost interest in the food and went straight for the old fire truck and the swing set he could climb on. He spent the next 30 minutes running amok along with dozens of other kids in the play area and on the grass. The parents sat on benches or the grass enjoying the sunshine, eating, and watching the kids play. It was like something out of a movie based in the mid-west. Like we were in a small town where everyone knew each other and helped each other and the kids grew up running free on the farmland.
I realized the benefits of supporting local farms that day. While I try to buy local, it was a completely different experience seeing the family-owned farm opened up to a bunch of strangers to enjoy the harvest. I lost count on how many people my son told about going to the farm to pick his own strawberries, and each time he told the story he was as excited as the last. He was even a little bummed when he realized he had finally eaten everything we picked.
I know sometimes we lose track of these small things, but after seeing how much fun my son had, I promised myself I would make more of an effort to keep an eye out for local farms hosting events for kids and families. Regardless of whether you go organic or not, seeing where food comes from and having the joy of choosing your own is something many of us don’t get to experience any more.
So I say go out and find a farm near you! There’s Kenny’s Strawberry Farm, Carlsbad Strawberries, and Wholesome Heritage Farms too! What are we missing? What are your favorite spots to do u-pick strawberries?