Is it okay to eat a berry? Why can’t I pick the ripe berries I pass while walking to my designated row? How can I be a responsible and respectful U-pick customer?
Read on to learn about U-pick etiquette. And (spoiler alert), it’s okay to eat a few berries while you pick!
I ask Kevin Arsenault and Rébeka Frazer-Chiasson about what tips they wish their customers would follow when picking berries. Kevin and Rébeka are the founding farmers at La Ferme Terre Partagée, a certified organic market garden in Rogersville, NB. Their strawberry U-pick is closed for the 2021 season but their advice applies to other U-picks.
Kevin and Rébeka both stress that most people who visit their U-pick are great, “But,” they both laugh, “there are the others…”
Here’s how to be a great U-pick customer
Respect the posted opening times. “We open at 10 in the morning,” says Kevin, “so the berries are dry and because we have other work to do before then.” Having people come earlier disrupts their work and can harm the plants.
Pick at the designated spots. They tell people where to pick. Instead, some people pick berries on their way to the designated post. The result is that the berries at the ends of rows are never picked and end up rotting.
Pick all the ripe berries. Don’t just pick the largest berries. If you do that, the small berries will end up being unpicked and rot.
Don’t mention the weeds. “It’s an organic U-pick,” says Kevin. “We have weeds. We know we have weeds. People don’t need to keep telling us that we should be pulling the weeds.”
Understand the seasonal cycle. At the beginning of the season, there are some unripe berries. At the end of the season, some berries may be rotting. That’s the way it goes. To avoid much of this, Kevin and Rébeka plant five varieties — two early, two late and one mid-season. At the beginning and end of the season, the U-pick is closed and they just pick berries for markets or orders.
Appreciate the work. At times, they pick berries for custom orders but this is “a huge favour,” explains Kevin. “We can’t guarantee that we can give people the variety they want when they want it.”
Stick to the U-pick. Vegetables grow in the field next to the strawberries but that doesn’t mean the farmers can easily pick custom orders of vegetables. It’s not efficient, for example, to leave the U-pick to go to the garden and harvest one bunch of carrots. The farmers have developed an efficient harvesting system that doesn’t include single orders.
As for eating berries, Rébeka says, “People think eating berries is a faux pas but that’s the thing I care about the least. We have no problem with people eating berries as they pick.”
Learn more about the farm at La Ferme Terre Partagée: Shared land and a shared vision and www.fermeterrepartagee.org