When The Going Gets Tough, Pick Farm-Fresh Edibles

The strawberry patch at Godfrey’s Farm in Sudlersville, Md. Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Thanks to Tove Danovich, whose work we are happy to see again after too long a stretch:

U-Pick Is a Popular Pandemic Pick-Me-Up

Strawberry fields, apple orchards and pumpkin patches have seen high volumes of visitors, most of whom have been on their best behavior.

U-pick farms — the choose-your-own-fruit-and-vegetable patches that draw droves each summer and fall — have been especially busy this year. Some farms have been so picked over that they’ve had to close their fields for a day or longer to let new fruit ripen.

With apple-and-pumpkin season in full swing, that popularity is continuing, and u-picks have adapted accordingly. Weekend festivals are out. Mask wearing is in. Most locations have introduced ticketed and timed entry, and created prepaid packages for produce and other amenities, like hay rides, to limit face-to-face interaction.

“We’ve had to switch things up a little bit,” said Kyle Holman, the brand manager for Alstede Farms in Chester, N.J. Compared with years past, he said, “things are as good if not better.” Summer picking was up as was interest in the farm’s C.S.A., though the usually busy autumn season has been scaled back. “We can’t have those bigger days,” Mr. Holman said.

For the most part, visitors appear to be adhering to the farms’ precautions, though there are occasional bad apples. In July, for instance, County Line Orchard, a u-pick farm in Hobart, Ind., with an event space was the site of a 270-person unofficial prom that became a Covid-19 superspreader event. (County Line Orchard did not respond to a request for comment.)

Valerie Garcia, a 42-year-old consultant, thought that going to Robinette’s, a u-pick in Grand Rapids, Mich., that also sells cider and doughnuts, would be relatively safe. As a caregiver for her 93-year-old grandmother, she has to be vigilant. When she arrived at the farm, she was dismayed.

“I pulled in and was shocked to see hundreds of people standing in groups,” Ms. Garcia said. There were jungle gyms and even a “jumping pillow,” similar to a trampoline, full of children. (Robinette’s is allowing only 12 children on the jumping pillow at a time because of the pandemic; in a normal year the capacity is closer to 30, said Karey Robinette, the farm’s manager.)

“It was the first time in eight months I’d been anywhere that really felt like they weren’t taking care,” Ms. Garcia said…

Read the whole article here.

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