Keep your family happy and healthy this summer with a trip to a genuine Alberta farm. The surrounding nature, and fruit and vegetable picking will make memories that will last forever! With a population of 1.5 million the City of Calgary can quickly become overwhelming, loud and hectic, and it isn’t long before a break from fast paced city life is needed. Now picture a warm summer day, a light breeze, fresh air and wide-open fields...ahhhh!
These relaxing features (and a time-out from concrete jungles) are part of what is attracting families to a pastime known as U-Pick farming.
U-Pick farming is exactly what it sounds like. Customers are invited to wander around orchards and fields to hand pick berries and vegetables of their choosing. But the lure of fresh picked produce and an afternoon in the country does more than bring out the inner farmer in us. The North American trend of eating all-things-local has made it’s way into how Alberta farmers are operating, and the demand for locally gown produce is at an all time high.
“I think U-Picks are becoming more popular because people are becoming more aware of the foods they eat, they are wanting an experience of getting their own food, they are wanting to enjoy the experience of eating food that tastes better, and they are wanting to connect to the land the way their grandparents were connected,” said Phil from Saskaberry Ranch.
“People love to connect with the source of their food and have an experience at a farm. Many people are wanting to teach their children where food comes from and how it is grown,” sharing in his sentiment, Judy Kolk, from Kayben Farms says.
Not only does visiting a U-Pick farm offer enjoyment and entertainment but also choosing your food from a local farmer can have several benefits on your health and the way you view your food.
“When you pick your own you are able to select the produce that you want. You know the products are fresh and how they have been handled. And the best reason I think to go to a U-Pick is that you can have a relationship with the person who grows your food, and get a better understanding of your food and what has gone into your food,” says Phil.
The experts say fresh food tastes better too.
“Can’t get any fresher than picking the veggies straight from the field. It is a fantastic way for children to be able to learn about the food in a fun way,” said John Mills from Eagle Creek Farms.
Many children refuse to eat their vegetables, or say they don’t taste good. Taking your child to a real working farm and involving them in the process of choosing their fruits and vegetables will get them excited to try new produce, and the fresh taste might just be what they need to fall in love with healthy foods. There are several U-Pick farms located around Calgary and surrounding Alberta areas. Some of the more popular ones are:
• Saskaberry Ranch (Olds)
• Kayben Farms (Okotoks)
• Eagle Creek Farms (Bowden)
• Pearsons Berry Farm (Bowden)
• Markerville Berry & Vegetable Farm (Red Deer)
• Edgar Farms (Innisfail)
• Solstice Berry Farm (Crossfield)
The experience offered by each farm is slightly different, with each presenting something unique.
Saskaberry Ranch mainly grows Saskatoon berries for U-Picking, but also have some strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, sweet cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, free-range eggs, free-range chicken, and free-range turkeys. Their main season is mid-July to the September-long-weekend from Monday to Saturday on a drop-in basis. Saskaberry Ranch is an ideal location for families looking for a day of fun. Pack a lunch and enjoy it outside in their picnic area, or
take the kids to interact and view with chickens, sheep, cows, and a pot bellied pig.
Phil, who owns and operates the farm, says that U-Pick farming is a great activity for people of all ages. “We have had little children who love running around and picking fruit or going and gathering real eggs from the chickens, to the 80-year-old Grandma whose face just lit up when she sampled one of out tomatoes, because it took her back to being a little girl again. Kids have asked to either move to our farm, or just not wanted to leave.”
For more information visit: saskaberryranch.com
Kayben Farms specializes in growing black currants and a variety of vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, beans and herbs. Vegetables are ready to pick in mid-July and black currants are available from mid-August until early-September. Their drop in hours are Monday - Friday 9 -5, and Saturdays 10 - 5.
Judy says that while U-Pick farming is a fun activity it might be more enjoyable for adults and school-age children, “depending on the child it might not be a fun experience with a toddler!” It takes the average person at least an hour to pick a four-liter pail of black currents, so make sure your young children are up for the adventure before heading out.
Kayben Farms also boasts the Sunshine Adventure Park that consists of over 12 acres of outdoor activities for your child. Some of their attractions include: a berry bounce, giant wheelbarrow play structure, picnic areas, a pedal kart track, climbing wall and lots more to explore and see!
For more information visit: kayben.com
Eagle Creek Farms has carrots, potatoes, beets, beans, peas, pumpkins, squash, zucchini, strawberries and lots of cut flowers: lilies, sunflowers, zinnias ornamental grasses. They open at the end of July and remain open until the frost kills the plants and gardens in early-September.
In addition to the U-Pick opportunity, Eagle Creek Farms has Alberta’s only sunflower maze, a corn maze, bale roping, and patio mazes accompanied by a play and picnic area. The farm is also part of the County Drive which is a group of farms in central Alberta that offer special events and sometimes sales. It is an initiative to get Albertan’s out into the country and give them a new (easy to plan) experience.
For more information visit: eaglecreekfarms.ca and countrydrive.ca
Farming is an activity that most children don’t get to experience on a regular basis; but U-Pick farming has opened up a new and adventurous way to broaden your child’s knowledge and understanding of where fruits and vegetables come from. As a parent you are able to hand-pick produce that’s surpasses the quality and taste of it’s grocery store counterparts, and have an active role in your families health. All the while having fun and getting out of the house this summer.
Things to bring before U-Pick:
• Dress for the weather!
• Wear comfortable shoes and protective footwear (there is lots of dirt).
• Bug spray
• Water (to stay hydrated)
• A cooler for any vegetables and fruit (pack an icepack to keep them cool on the way home)
• A camera!
Things to consider before U-Pick:
• It takes between 20 minutes to one hour to fill a four liter pail (depending on the crop)
• Call ahead to see if pets should be left at home, most farms don’t allow them.
• Prices vary depending on each type of vegetable (and farm), but not all farms accept debit or credit, cash is
always accepted, so call ahead to get a better idea of prices.
• There is not usually a charge to U-Pick (just for the produce), but often there is a fee for other farm activities.
Be prepared to pay admission to play places and expect there to be a gift shop at some farms.
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