Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pick Your Own: Blueberries

It almost seems natural now, this is the fifth pick-your-own weekend I've shared with my family and it just seems to be a very normal way to bring in our relaxing Saturday morning. We wake up, brew a little organic direct-trade (or free trade if we run low of the good stuff) coffee, serve up a little fruit, pack up the sweetheart, grab our reused plastic containers and drive out to the farm. This last weekend was open season for blueberries so we went to Pungo Blueberries who we found on and happened to have beautiful bushes ripe for the picking. When we drove up there were already about a dozen people in the front fields and there was an attendant directing traffic (to me, never a good sign... I like quiet farms and empty parking lots. Makes me feel like I found it on my own and I'm the only person who knows about it. But I do acknowledge that empty parking lots don't keep farms open, so I'm glad I wasn't alone). I was nervous that the berry bushes would already be picked over but when we got all saddled up and over to the grove, we were really surprised how easy the picking was.The berry farm is only open four days a week and since the farm is open on both Fridays and Saturdays, the attendant was rather surprised we still made out with five pounds. We actually left earlier than expected (after only about forty minutes), Aoife had been woken from her nap to go out to help us pick and well, she wasn't happy about it.

The grass between the lanes was freshly mowed and the dew was still on the leaves when we went out to pick. I was initially a little concerned about the bushes, because I was finding absolutely no fauna. Read here: no bugs. None. Not even little, tiny, I-missed-the-pesticide-plane bugs. We eventually started to see dragonflies and beetles, which allayed my fears about the amount of herbicides and such that were being used, but I still washed our produce very thoroughly.
The plants had perfectly ripe blue-black toned blueberries, red, pink and green as well, indicative of future growth into the picking season. I appreciate coming early in the season and having first pick. The bugs and birds haven't discovered the ripe and rotted fruit on the ground and the bushes aren't beaten and fields aren't trodden bare from crowds. There's something terribly amazing about a pick your own produce experience. For Joshua and I, as urban homesteaders, connecting even on this basic level with our food helps me to feel like we are doing a small step in the right direction.

Instead of my food being picked (usually unripe, so it arrives ripe--or worse yet, picked ripe and then sprayed with a preservative to help it to maintain its ripe state), boxed, sent to a processing location, unboxed, sorted, packaged, labelled, reboxed, put on a truck, put on a plane, put on a semi, dropped at a distribution location, put on a truck, dropped at a warehouse, put on a produce truck, brought to a store, placed on a display in a stale grocery store under fluorescent lights, waiting until it starts to get bad so they put it on "manager special" status and then thrown in a plastic bag and brought home in a car and shoved to the back of the fridge...

Instead of all that, I can take my family to a farm, pick it myself, laugh with my husband as we listen to ornery old female sisters relate stories of their youth in Sandbridge, teach my daughter about fresh fruit and eating in season and I can place my fresh picked, ripe fruit in reused containers, paying below market cost and enjoying that day the fruits of my labor (no pun intended).

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