I can’t even tell you how much I love this time of year in the Pacific Northwest. Warm days. Cool nights. And the berries. Oh, the berries…
After much practice, my friends and I have somewhat perfected the art of berry picking with small kids. In fact, five years ago, we hauled our two toddlers and one newborn out to Sleight’s Farm in Mulino to pick strawberries. At worst, this may sound like a recipe for disaster. At best, this may sound like lots of kid chasing and very little berry picking. The kids did great, though, and we managed to pick around 25 pounds each. The kids raced up and down the rows, filling their bellies with berries and making new friends along the way.
One of our favorite local picking spots is Sleight’s. The field is huge, the owners are relaxed, and at well under $1 a pound, the price is unbeatable. If you haven’t had a chance to pick strawberries yet, call around! You should be able to find several that are still open for U-Pick.
Tri-County Farm Fresh Produce: Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington county information
Pick Your Own: This site is a bit outdated, but it’s still a good place to start for farm names, addresses, and phone numbers.
For those of you who pick berries alone or with (even moderately) helpful kids, enjoy every minute of it. For the rest of us…
Here’s a few ideas to make for a successful berry-picking trip with kids in tow:
Find a kid-friendly farm. My sister and I used to drive to a U-Pick farm on Sauvie’s Island. I stopped going there once they put the kibosh on eating berries in the field before paying for them. I understand their reasoning, but it takes a lot of the fun out of picking berries with kids. In fact, it makes it downright miserable. I joked with the stand operator that she should just weigh the kids before and after they go into the field, and I would pay for the difference. She didn’t seem to think that was funny so I found farms where kids were free to eat and explore.
Bring enough snacks and water and sunscreen and diapers and… for a small army. My friend Elizabeth is really good about this one. Just pretend you’re going on a long airplane ride and pack accordingly. Along with that, don’t forget to bring along plenty of patience, flexibility, and humor.
Listen to your mother. My mom offered wise advice before we left : “Just remember that any berries you pick will be more than you started with.” Don’t stress if the day doesn’t go exactly as you envisioned. Relax and have fun. Actually, that’s good advice for life with kids in general…
See the day as an outing/activity in itself . Because Sleight’s is a popular spot, you end up standing in line for a long time to pay. If we tried to figure out whether our time was worth the .60/lb. we’d quickly come to the realization that our time would be better spent buying pre-picked berries. However, if you take breaks to check out the horses, explore the rows, eat a snack, etc. then you turn it into a fun activity for your kids while accomplishing a task for yourself. You walk away with a bunch of berries and happy, exhausted kids. Everyone wins.
Bring a stroller or a wagon. If the distance between the car and the field is a good walk, a stroller can be a lifesaver. Not for the kids! For the berries, of course. We loaded our strollers with tubs of berries, freeing up our hands to hold kids. It’s a much better arrangement. In fact, I would pack wheels even if I didn’t have kids. So much easier!
Have one summer berry picking outfit for your kids. Leave those cute outfits at home. I know, I know. They’d be so Kodak-moment adorable. But then your kiddo will eat berries, play in the dirt, pick grass, and before long even Oxi-Clean won’t stand a chance.
I have devoted one worn outfit as berry picking clothes for my daughter. I put her in it for all of our strawberry- raspberry-blueberry-peach picking outings. By the end of the summer, it is totally ruined and that’s okay. For messier, stickier crops like strawberries and peaches, I also pack extra clean clothes to change the kids into for the ride home.
Any other strawberry pickers out there? Where do you go? What do you pack?
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