Fall Fun: Pick-Your-Own Farms

Fall Fun: Pick-Your-Own Farms

by Mary Beth Schwartz

It gives you a sense of community. It saves the environment. It allows you to connect to where your food originates from. It saves you money. It gives you outdoor activity. And, best of all, it provides for an educational outing for the entire family. There is nothing quite like choosing and harvesting your own fresh local produce on one of the Lehigh Valley’s pick-your-own farms.

To find a list of pick-your-own farms here in the Lehigh Valley, there are two helpful sites: Local Harvest at localharvest.org, and Greater Lehigh Valley Buy Fresh Buy Local, buylocalgreaterlehighvalley.org. One popular farm to stop at is George Schmidt Berry Farm in New Tripoli. According to George Schmidt, the family-run farm started in 1942.

“Visitors can find the freshest fruits and vegetables here. You can pick your own fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries, red raspberries, peaches, blackberries, and sour cherries, and certain vegetables, such as sugar peas, pod peas, and string beans,” Schmidt says. Pickers should bring their own containers for the crops that run from May through August.

For those with a hankering for peaches picked fresh from the tree, there is Gogle Farms in Coplay. The family-run orchard offers fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables from July through October. “Our main pick-your-own crop is peaches in August. We have prepicked apples, cherries, apricots, pears, and plums. Customers can pick pumpkins the last week of September through Halloween,” says Roger Gogle.

Another Lehigh Valley farm to plan a visit to is Seiple Farms in Bath. A family-owned farm since 1889, Seiple Farms offers picking for three seasons. Summer brings pick-your-own strawberries, shelling peas, and two types of edible pod peas (sugar snap and snow). Fall brings pick-your-own pumpkins. On weekends, families can enjoy the straw maze, haunted barn, pony rides, corn maze, and hayrides. Winter brings cut-your-own Christmas trees. For those not as adventurous, precut trees also can be purchased.

A favorite of many in the Lehigh Valley is Strawberry Acres in Coplay. According to Consultant Pam Haas, Strawberry Acres is a pick-your-own farm complete with a retail farm market and bakery. “When people enter the farm we have a greeting area. We provide them with containers and a ride out to the fields. There is a field monitor to show where the ripest fruit is located. When you pick at a local farm, items are going to be much fresher. You are picking at the peak of ripeness. You also know where the items are coming from. This is not true when you buy from a supermarket,” Haas says.

Pick your own peaches and pears in September, apples in September and October, and pumpkins in October. On selected dates, visitors can enjoy a daytime hayride or an evening hayride with a stop at the bonfire. On fall weekends, children will appreciate the numerous activities available, including games, petting zoo, crafts, educational tours, treasure hunt, and pony rides.

Family-run Juniperdale Farms and The Produce Crib in Nazareth has pick-your-own pumpkins in October. Juniperdale Farms and Seiple Farms are part of the 2013 Northampton County Open Gate Farm Tour. This annual event is free to families. It takes place October 12 and 13, from 1 to 5 p.m. There also is the 2013 Lehigh County Open Gate Farm Tour on October 20, from 1 to 5 p.m. These annual tours are free of charge. Casual dress is recommended. For maps of the tours, visit extension.psu.edu.

Picking the Best Fruit

If you plan on picking apples and pumpkins come fall, here are a few tips. For apples, choose fruit that is firm and free of bruises. To pick an apple, push the apple up and then give it a quick twist. For pumpkins, determine which shape you prefer. It should be smooth and free of blemishes. Some dirt from the field is fine. Make sure the pumpkin sits level. Give the pumpkin a quick tap for freshness. Finally, there should be stem left on the pumpkin. Happy picking!

Before visiting your favorite farm, there are some things to keep in mind:

• The fields are an investment for the farmer.

• Respect the land.

• Pick only what is in season – do not deviate and pick items not in season or available for customer picking.

• Walk on grassy areas and between picking rows – do not step on plants.

• Do not litter, smoke, and please leave the pets at home.

• Wear clothing suitable for outdoor work, as well as a wide brimmed hat and sturdy shoes.

• For warmer weather, bring bottled water, sunscreen, and just in case, some bug repellent.

• If the kids are coming along, be sure to take Wet Ones and snacks.

• Last but not least, call or visit the farm online ahead of time to see what is in season and if picking containers are supplied. Some crops are affected by weather and may not be available every day. It is best to go early in the day to get the best choice of crop and avoid the crowds.

Follow @LehighValleyMarketplace on Instagram