the kids are finally out of school which means summer has officially begun. I decided to close down my FB account since I have four kids that need my full time attention (other things that need my attention: my hubs, my garden, my projects). I also picked up reading books again so that takes up any new found time that FB deletion gave me.
Anyway....I've alluded to the fact that we may be leaving Oregon soon in hopes of a job promotion. As this may be my last summer in western Oregon, I've decided to soak up and record all of my favorite things about living here.
I've lived in five different states in all parts of the country: desert, dry hot Utah; grey, cool, green Seattle, WA; humid, sunny, hot Florida; and humid, hot upstate New York.
In all of these places, I have never lived where there is such extensive agriculture that is available to the public (exception Seattle, but even then it wasn't that abundant). Many people boast memberships to CSAs (I had one in Seattle), but do you ever really have the chance to drive out to the farm, go to the field, and selectively pick your produce?
Here in Willamette valley, there is a huge variety of small family farms that offer U-picks in every form. From early June on, I am easily able to pick 2-3 farms that offer the vegetable/fruit that is in season that week and go pick it at a very low cost. Where else can you do that??
Starting in mid-June, I go for strawberries at $1/lb. Then we move to raspberries in late June, blueberries in early July, cherries in July, blackberries in mid-July, Peaches in August, Apples and grapes in September. All for approximately $1/lb in most cases. And because of my location, most of these farms are an easy 10 minute drive from my home! I supplement these fruits with vegetables grown in my garden which makes for a rich, nutrient dense whole foods diet for my family.
And because everything is hand-picked, I have the chance to choose and select which fruits I want to put in my bucket. Often, the varieties that farmers choose for U-pick are more fragile, yet tremendously flavorful which makes the fruit experience extremely unique. I try to get to know the family that owns the farm and often they are all too generous to offer you a ride on their gator and take you on a tour of the better producing trees and plants. All of my children and babies have taken a few rides like this to the exclusive gorgeous tree that produces the best fruit or the best selection of blueberry bushes.
I also find that I prefer U-picks to farmer's market. Not only is everything much less expensive at a U-pick, but I find that the people that staff the booths at farmer's markets to be hurried, cranky, and unavailable to explain their produce to you. At a small family-based farm, the people there have only been generous in explaining their methods and plants, how the weather is affecting their crop, and the best location in their fields to pick the best produce. The farmers often have blogs where they share the condition of the farm and the crop and it is often my go-to resource - like Mrs. Fordyce's blog or Beilke apple farms
I mean, look at this amazing bounty from Fordyce Farms. 25 pounds of huge berries picked in under 30 minutes!