By Lynn West
Annual berry picking “practice” begins in our garden. Little fingers itch to pick ripe (and not so ripe) strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Once their dripping fingers are in sync, our grandkids often join us at some of the great U-Pick farms in Thurston County.
We keep a stash of containers in the car to carry home the berries since few of the farms provide them (if they do, it is noted below). Here is a list of some of our favorite farms, listed in order of the start dates for picking. I also suggest calling ahead if you are considering picking at the beginning or end of a season.
Strawberry and Raspberry U-Pick Farms
Helsing Junction Farm (12013 Independence Rd SW, Rochester, WA 98579) is open Friday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Flats and the pint cups are provided. $20 for a flat of U-Pick and $30 for picked flats at the farm stand. Cash and checks are accepted.
Spooner Berry Farms (3327 Yelm Highway, Olympia) will be open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the middle of June for strawberry picking. Raspberries should be available mid-July.
It is always a fun adventure to ride the Berry Express tractor from the U-pick pay station to the U-pick plants. According to Sue Spooner, “We will have an abundance of beautiful ripe berries, and picking usually lasts about twelve days. We do not pick on rainy days.”
Sue said they plan to keep the U-Pick price at $1.65 per pound. The farm provides wire baskets lined with take-home cardboard cartons inside. Pay by cash, check, or card. Phone: 360-456-4554.
Pigman’s Organic Produce (10633 Steilacoom Road SE, Olympia) offers U-pick for both organic strawberries (available from mid-July until fall) and raspberries (available early July).
“In the 26 years we have been growing strawberries, we have only been open for U-pick in June three times,” Jan Pigman told me. “Since we don’t spray fungicides, we only plant Everbearing Strawberries, which tend to be sweeter and do better in our climate,” she continued.
U-pick strawberry prices for 2014 were $2.75 per pint, $14 for 6 pints (a half-flat), and $27 for 12 pints (a flat). Phone: 360-491-3276. Email: PigmansProduce@gmail.com.
After years of making our children climb around the hills of Eastern Washington to pick elusive Huckleberries, they tell their offspring how much easier it is to pick blueberries. However, the family tradition of eating as many as you pick tends to be followed by the littlest ones, especially in our garden.
The mid-July sunshine usually ripens those green berries, but may be a bit earlier in July this year for some of the farms.
The Black Lake Blueberry Farm (3105 – 54th Ave SW, Olympia) has pesticide free berries. Restrooms are available for pickers. No picking on rainy days. Pay by cash or check. Phone: 360-480-2452 (no calls after 8:00 p.m., please).
Carr’s Blueberry Farm (3844 – 1/2 Gull Harbor Road NE, Olympia) is certified organic for all their crops. U-pick blueberry price was $2.25 a pound in 2014. Pre-picked berries are also available. Pay by cash or check. Tom Carr told me, “There might be a slight raise in the price this year, and I expect the berries to be ripe in early August.”
He suggests calling the message phone 360-352-3622 for updates.
Friendly Grove Blueberries, (3102 Friendly Grove Road NE, Olympia) grows organic blueberries. Karen Crown said, “Because our bushes are so loaded with green berries in early June, I think we may be open by the beginning of July this year.” She provides picking buckets and sunhats for your use at the farm. The 2015 U-pick price is $2.50 a pound. Phone: 360-528-0207.
Gile Blueberry Farm (3641 Gull Harbor Road NE, Olympia) is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and is definitely a fun, family run business. It is not certified organic, but they do not spray.
When we visit Gile’s, we usually pick for a while and then when the troops give up, we take advantage of their pre-picked boxes. Sometimes, it’s just worth the extra few quarters. They have containers for picking and, if necessary, boxes for you to take home your berries. The 2014 per pound prices were $1.50 for U-pick and $2.25 for pre-picked. Phone: 360-352-4847.
Spooner Berry Farm – Until this year, Spooner’s had only had enough blueberries to furnish their stands, but this year the fields are loaded. Sue Spooner said, “It takes seven or eight years to get really good yields, and this year U-pick for blueberries will be great.”
Blueberry picking fields are located at 10447 Yelm Highway, three miles east of the Amtrak Station. She expects picking to begin toward the end of July. Prices will be the same as for strawberries.
Before you go, it is wise to check the website or Facebook page of the farm for any changes in availability, days and times, cost, and containers needed. Then grab sunhats, and you are ready for a wonderful adventure. Reward the family with strawberry shortcake, a luscious blueberry cobbler or raspberry jam!