Organic strawberries for under $2 a pound? Sign me up! There’s a catch, of course. The bright red berries don’t come packaged neatly in pint-sized containers at the farmers market. You have to pick them yourself. But there are worse things than spending a sunny day in a sweet-smelling field, pawing through bright green foliage in a hunt for hidden treasure. It’s an inexpensive outing, a fun way to teach kids about the source of their food, and maybe even an excuse for a picnic.
Lane County has at least seven u-pick locations between Cottage Grove and Harrisburg, including The Small Farmers Project. This cooperative, run by eight families, got off the ground with help from Huerto de la Familia (The Family Garden), an organization that helps low-income Latino families grow their own food in community gardens and start small agriculture-related businesses.
The project grows several varieties of strawberries, including ever-bearing Seascape and day-neutral Benton. (Need a quick tutorial on what that means? Check out this publication from the Oregon State University Extension Service.) Berries are $11 per bucket. They provide the buckets while you’re picking, but plan to bring your own containers for carting the berries home. If you lose steam partway through your adventure, the farm often has pre-picked berries available for sale.
The Willamette Farm and Food Coalition’s Locally Grown Guide is a great resource for finding local berry fields. The online directory lets you select u-pick as one of the search categories, so it’s easy to find places that will let you wander the fields.
You probably have plenty of ideas for what to do with the berries once you make it home. If not, or if some of your recipes need sprucing up, here are some tasty suggestions:
- Mix 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cardamom into strawberry shortcake batter. Serve shortcake with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream.
- Chop 1 cup of strawberries and fold them into buttermilk biscuits. Sprinkle each biscuit with sugar before baking.
- Stir 1/2 cup of chopped pecans into waffles and top with fresh sliced strawberries. No syrup needed.
- Toss quartered strawberries with salad greens, sliced toasted almonds, and poppy seed dressing.
Strawberries are late this year, thanks to a cold and rainy spring, so they should stick around for a while. If you miss out, there are plenty more u-pick opportunities this summer. Blueberries, raspberries, black-caps, peaches, apples, and more will be ripe for the picking at various points through the fall.
The Small Farmers Project
511 East Beacon Street
Eugene, OR 97404
Sophia McDonald Bennett is a freelance writer from Eugene, Oregon. In her spare time she enjoys reading, gardening, spending time with family and friends, and dreaming up new recipes.