Today’s post is courtesy of my mother-in-law who texted me last night to point out that pick-your-own farms would soon yield crops, and she imagined there would be lots of farms out here in the Niagara Region. She’s a wise lady, and there are plenty of farms available throughout the growing season for pick-your-own fun. Today we’re going to share our top ten tips for visiting Niagara pick-your-own farms with kids.
Niagara Families has a complete listing of family friendly and pick-your-own farms here. If you’ve never been fruit or vegetable picking with your kids, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Be prepared for the weather. Bring hats, sunscreen, water, and whatever else you or the kids might need to survive in the heat.
2. Dress appropriately. Wear clothes you won’t mind getting dirty, and sturdy closed-toe shoes. Sandals are not appropriate for picking.
3. Try to go through the week. If your schedule permits, take advantage of weekday hours to avoid weekend crowds. Some farms are open weekday evenings too. This might be a fun way to get the kids some fresh air before bed time.
4. Expect bees. This may seem obvious, but fruit that has dropped to the ground and is left to rot in the sun will attract insects, particularly bees. If you or your kids have a serious allergy to bee stings, this may not be the activity for you. This is another great reason for close-toed shoes.
5. Call ahead. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the particularly brutal winter we had. Those weather conditions mean that everything is a little behind this year in the world of crops. Be sure to call any farm you’d like to visit to see what’s available. Make sure you don’t require a reservation. Most farms out here don’t need you to schedule a visit unless you have a large group, but there are a couple who would prefer to book a time for you.
6. Follow the rules. Each farm has it’s own rules for visitors. Make sure you take note, and make sure the kids understand how they are expected to behave. Keep a close eye on wee ones, and make sure kids are supervised at all times. Try to avoid letting the kids eat unwashed fruit, and make sure they wash their hands well after picking. Local farms love family visits, so feel welcome, but be respectful.
7. Do some homework. If you’ve never picked before, do a bit of research about what you’d like to harvest, find out when it’s in season, and find out specific tips for choosing the best of the crop. Thanks to the Internet, that’s easier than ever. Harvest Ontario has a beautiful list of which fruits and veggies are in season each month here. Pick-Your-Own.org has a great guide to harvesting specific fruits and veggies here.
8. Bring your own containers. Most farms will supply you with containers for picking, which you can hang on to and re-use. Most farms also encourage you to make the green choice to bring your own containers, which they will weigh for you prior to picking, as most pick-your-own produce is charged by weight. Make sure to ask about bringing your own containers when you call ahead.
9. Bring a Picnic and prepare to shop. I have two kids old enough to really enjoy picking, ages 8 and 10. We’ve picked some type of produce every year for the last two years, and every single time, I’m amazed at how quickly we fill up our containers. If you really want to make a day of it, pack a picnic. Most farms have specific picnic areas, or scenic spots near by. Plan to visit the market stands or gift shops for other delicious local treats to take home.
10. Cook together! It’s hard to say which is more fun – picking the produce, or turning it into something delicious at home. There is no end to the incredible recipes available for in-season fruit and veggies, and most kids love helping in the kitchen. Yes, it’ll slow you down, but in my opinion, those kinds of memories are worth slowing down for. It’s also a wonderful way for kids to understand the relationship between the food that we grow and the food that we eat.
I can’t think of a better way to spend a beautiful afternoon as a family than visiting a local pick-your-own farm. It’s an economical, sustainable, and delicious way to enjoy the bounty of our lush, green region. Stay tuned for delicious, kid-friendly recipes featuring local in-season produce. We can’t wait to enjoy all that the Niagara region has to offer.