Tuesday I went strawberry picking with a friend. We had a great time visiting and came home with mounds of juicy, beautiful berries. I couldn’t wait to get home to wash and slice a bowlful to eat with milk and sugar.
Although we own a u-pick farm we are also u-pick customers. Why? We like fresh produce. We believe fresh always tastes better. We would love to grow everything that we eat but we’re pretty spoiled. As Americans, we’ve eaten food from around the world and grown to love all of it. While our soil is perfect for growing blueberries and many other things, we will never be able to grow bananas. Even simple things like carrots and sweet corn don’t grow well in our garden. We used to have a small patch of strawberries for just our family and they were delicious but we struggled to keep the weeds out of it. Our primary focus is on the blueberries so when time got tight, the strawberries had to go.
While we were picking Tuesday, I noticed that some friends’ daughters had jobs picking strawberries for that farm to sell as pre-picked. They are in their early teens so too young for regular jobs. Working at a you-pick farm is a great way for teens to learn what work is all about. They quickly figure out the relationship between what you can buy for a dollar and how much work must be expended to earn that dollar. Someone besides mom or dad is evaluating their work and that helps them understand their own abilities and preferences more fully. Working at our farm was a great experience for our sons and clarified for them what kind of jobs they were or weren't good at and also what things they liked or didn’t like to do. It also forced them to develop people skills in a variety of situations.
There were several families with smaller children picking at the strawberry patch on Tuesday. What a wonderful way to teach children that our food doesn’t come from plastic boxes on a shelf indoors! They see that it grows in dirt so a little dirt on food isn’t a horrible thing. They see the people who have worked hard to produce that food and realize that food isn’t manufactured; it’s grown. They see mud and weeds and insects, all part of the food production process. They also get a small taste of the amount of work necessary to provide what we put in our mouths and appreciate that eating and work go together, that eating is one of the blessings of working hard.
As I drove home, I thought it’s good for me to be on the customer side of the
u-pick equation. It reminds me of what it’s like for you when you come to our farm. It helps me remember that we aren’t the only ones doing this, we aren’t the only ones impacted by the weather, the economy and demographic trends. I love seeing the enthusiasm and commitment of the other farmers in our area and how much they love what they are doing even when it is difficult and not always as rewarding as they’d hoped. We are so thankful for the other farmers providing for us what we don’t produce for ourselves. And we are so thankful for those of you who come to our farm to pick what we produce. We’re all in this together and we’re so grateful for everyone who is a part of the whole.