Sunshine, blue skies and juicy berries as far as the eye can see — what could be better?
Pick-them-yourself berry farms have long been a summer mainstay for many, but even more people are choosing gardens over grocery stores these days.
“We have probably experienced a 400 percent increase this year,” said Stephanie Stokes, owner of Stokes Berry Farm in Wilmington. “We have had a whole new surge of families who are tired of being cooped up at home. It’s the first fun, safe activity they can do as a family.”
The coronavirus pandemic sparked a desire for self-sufficiency when it comes to the food supply chain. Empty grocery shelves have been matched by empty shelves of fruit and vegetable plants and empty racks of seeds at local garden centers.
But you don’t need acres of land to get fresh produce. Ripe, juicy berries can be found close to home as the Miami Valley has several pick-your-own berry farms. And berry picking is much more fun than a trip to the grocery store — think outdoor scavenger hunt with tasty treats as the prize.
Amanda Matthias has fond childhood memories of berry picking with her aunt in Michigan. Now, the Washington Twp. woman is sharing the cherished tradition with her daughter.
“I love being outdoors and I love the hunt — looking for just the right berry,” Matthias said. “I also love finding new ways to use the berries with my daughter and, of course, we love eating our collaborations.”
Lifting up the leaves and searching for the perfect berry can be a challenge for all ages. Pick a few perfect juicy, red berries and move on to another patch or a nearby row.
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“The pure joy you see on the kids’ faces — everyone’s faces — is just so wonderful,” Stokes said.
Strawberries are the current ripe berry at Stokes, but black raspberries will soon be available. Other local berry farms offer blueberries, red raspberries and, even, gooseberries. Grapes and apples will be available later in the year.
Fresh fruit and family fun, berry picking at local farms offers a full serving of both.
“We want to produce healthy fruit and provide an authentic experience for families,” Stokes said.
Because berries are seasonal, please check the farm’s websites or call to make sure pick-yourself-berries are still available.
FRESH FRUIT PICKING CLOSE TO HOME
Champaign Berry Farm
What: Red and black raspberries, gooseberries
Where: 5676 E. State Route 29, Urbana
Monnin’s Fruit Farm
What: Strawberries, raspberries, grapes and apples
Where: 8201 Frederick Pike, Dayton
Once in a Blue Moon Farm
Where: 3984 E. Social Row Road, Waynesville
More info: Visit the farm’s Facebook page or call 937-586-8749
Stokes Berry Farm
What: Strawberries and black raspberries
Where: 2822 Center Road, Wilmington