Gayle Ivy has a blueberry bowl at her Modesto home that needs frequent refilling. That explains why she was harvesting the fruit at Ott Farms on Thursday morning.
This place just off Paradise Road is part of the pick-your-own niche in agriculture. Visitors pay for the privilege of doing a little farm labor and take home some of the freshest produce possible.
“I just leave a bowl on the table and we eat them as we pass by all day long,” Ivy said as she plucked the ripe orbs from a bush.
U-pick season ramps up in May in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, as cherries, blueberries and apricots ripen. It will go into fall with pumpkins and pomegranates. Fans can get an idea of the offerings at www.pickyourown.org.
Ott charges $3 per pound of blueberries or cherries picked by customers Thursdays through Sundays. It is a small part of a farm that mainly produces fruit and other crops for conventional channels.
Chris Ott, a co-owner, advises amateur blueberry pickers to “find the dark fruit and just roll it off into your hands.”
Ivy has her own secret: “Look under the branches on the inside. That’s where you ususally get the nice big ones.”
Pick-your-own is not for every farmer. Most leave the work to paid crews that move fast while keeping the delicate crops intact.
And there’s no sign yet of the trend spreading beyond fruits and vegetables. Pluck-your-own poultry, anyone? Thought not.
More about Ott Farms is at www.otttohavethebest.com.
Pick-your-own fruit is at the heart of a festival near Livingston over Memorial Day weekend.
The 13th annual Pick and Gather and Merced River Fair is at Riverdance Farms, 12230 Livingston Cressey Road. Guests can harvest blueberries, strawberries and cherries and enjoy food, drink, music, nature study, farm demonstrations and plenty more.
The admission fees and other details are at www.riverdancefarms.com.
John Holland: 209-578-2385