When you’ve got parents who don’t garden, how’s a kid supposed to satisfy that itch to hunt and gather? The solution in our family is to visit a variety of pick-your-own farms and orchards throughout the growing season and let the kids harvest to their little hearts’ content. We love to scout berries in the summer months, fresh veggies as summer wanes, and we cram as many apple orchard trips into the fall as our schedule allows. It may cost a little more than purchasing at our local grocery store, but we believe the experience is worth it. Our method for finding these farm gems is a great little tool called the Minnesota Grown website.
Maintained by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the website is very user-friendly. You can search for farms by city, zip code or farm name. Or, if you’ve got a hankering for, say, strawberries or some fresh sweet corn, the website allows you to search by produce type as well. Included in the index of farms are independent family farms, farmer’s markets, CSAs, all-organic farms, and farms that sell animal products, textiles, gifts, and landscaping supplies. We also find it a great resource for planning fun family outings – many of the farms offer tours, animal encounters, wagon rides and, particularly in the fall, many other fun activities.
Some Twin Cities farms to keep in mind for this June that make a great day trip: Pleasant Valley Orchard near Taylors Falls was our family’s first berry-picking adventure. Years later we’ve yet to come across a sweeter strawberry than those harvested at that farm. I’ve also heard good things about Natura Farms of Marine on St. Croix, Pine Tree Orchard of White Bear Lake and we’ve enjoyed the free-range chickens that wander Sam Kedem Nursery & Garden of Hastings.
JULY RASPBERRIES & BLUEBERRIES
Last July, I loved watching my kids meandering down the rows of raspberry and blueberry bushes at The Berry Patch of Forest Lake. The bushels of wild blueberries from Blueberry Fields of Stillwater barely survived the trip back home. Keep in mind that many orchards offer pick-your-own fall raspberries if July escapes you: we’ve enjoyed picking at Afton Apple Orchard and Apple Jack Orchards of Delano.
If it’s veggies you’re craving, we were amazed by the summer selection at Waldoch Farm Garden Center of Lino Lakes. Beans, peppers, corn, squash, greens, peas; you name it, you could pick it. My kids have always been decent vegetable-eaters, but I’ve heard reluctant little ones might be more interested in eating them if they’ve had a hand in harvesting and preparing them!
As for apples, the fun to be had out at local Twin Cities orchards deserves dedicated posts of its own — and you can find them here in the West Metro, a second West Metro (good stuff out there!), East Metro, South Metro and North Metro — along with all kinds of recommendations for fall family fun.
For more tips on where to score fresh, locally-grown produce and entertain the whole family, try our list of 10 Family-Friendly Twin Cities Farmers Markets!
PYO ADDRESS BOOK
Pleasant Valley Orchard | Shafer, MN | (651) 257-9159
Crop: PYO strawberries in June/July, apples and pumpkins plus harvest activities in the fall.
Pine Tree Orchard | White Bear Lake, MN | (651) 429-7202
Crop: PYO strawberries in June, apples are pre-picked but come out to explore the grounds and the apple barn. Fall weekends offer hayrides, a corn maze, and live entertainment.
The Berry Patch | Forest Lake, MN | (651) 433-3448
Crop: PYO strawberries in June, raspberries & blueberries in July. Always call to check the availability of the crop before coming out! You can get hours of operation and prices on their website. [Currently, their website is down but the season is still ON!]
Natura Farms | Marine St Croix, MN | (651) 433-5850
Crop: PYO strawberries in June, red raspberries in July, plus more varieties of berries and fruits.
Waldoch Farm Garden Center | Lino Lakes, MN | (651) 780-1207
Crop: PYO produce varieties can be found here, including a colorful, extensive list of summer vegetables. Always call to check availability.
Afton Apple Orchard | Hastings, MN | (651) 436-8385
Crop: PYO strawberries mid-June to mid-July, fall raspberries & apples begin in early August. LOTS of activities and entertainment at this orchard so plan to make a day of it!
Sam Kedem Nursery & Garden | Hastings, MN | (651) 437-7516
Crop: Call to check availability of strawberries, red raspberries and now blueberries. Check the website for updates.
Apple Jack Orchards | Delano, MN | (763) 972-6673
Crop: Beginning in August, the farm will offer PYO raspberries and fall apples. Check the website for daily updates. LOTS of activities at this busy, very kid-friendly orchard Bring cash for extras!