U-Pick Farms: “Fresh” Agritourism in Missouri

Jefferson City, Mo. — Looking to do something that combines outdoor adventure with a culinary delight? You’re in luck: it is fresh-berry-picking season in Missouri; apples and other fruit are ripening on the trees; and u-pick opportunities are in full swing all across the state. In Missouri, fresh is the name of the game.

Blueberries are not only delicious; they are low in calories, virtually fat free, a good source of fiber and they top the list of disease-preventing fruits and vegetables. No, you don’t have to travel to Maine for fresh blueberries. Have a total blueberry experience in Missouri, but don’t overlook the gooseberries, blackberries, raspberries, apples and other tree fruit.

Launch the season at Persimmon Hill Farm in Lampe. In addition to pick-your-own blueberries, Persimmon Hill offers several varieties of jam, butters, and their famous Blueberry Thunder Muffins. Plus, they have been growing shiitake mushrooms for more than 20 years; several shiitake products are sold at the farm.

In Columbia, Pick and Pick is a u-pick berry and vegetable farm with strawberries into mid-June, blackberries and raspberries, plus vegetables and fruit as they mature: tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, green beans, corn, squash and whatever else they had time to plant. Pumpkins appear late September until Halloween.

The Lost Branch Blueberry Farm, in Brashear, is one of the largest blueberry plantations in Missouri, with more than 2,000 bushes covered with huge, luscious berries, available for picking mid-June to August. They have manicured grass rows for easy access.

Binder’s Hilltop Apple and Berry Farm, in Mexico, Missouri, offers an unusual combination: apples and alpacas. During the season, more than 18 varieties of apples are offered for you to pick. Their trees are dwarf, so almost all of the apples are within easy reach. They open their u-pick operation the second week in July. In their farm store, you can purchase alpaca fleece and other alpaca products, along with fruit jams and butters. The last weekend in September, Binder’s hosts a National Alpaca Farm Day event, with tours and a farm store where they sell alpaca and farm products.

Southeast of St. Joseph, Schweizer Orchards has 86 acres of u-pick strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, apples and pumpkins. The gift shop offers produce, a gift shop, snacks and a picnic area. Many field trips and parties are held at the orchard, especially in the fall, with hayrides to the apple trees and pumpkin patch. Special tours are available for school groups. They even have a u-cut Christmas-tree farm.

Home Grown Paradise, outside of Fulton, opens in mid-June. You’ll enjoy picking strawberries from the five-foot vertical stackers, where 15,000 strawberry plants are grown in unique hydroponic stands. No bending and no kneeling.

Beginning in June, you can pick whatever is in season at First Fruits Orchard, in Drexel. They grow blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, onions, radishes, peppers, sweet corn, watermelon, lettuce, pumpkins and other produce. All of their products are organically grown, using no pesticides or herbicides, and irrigated with water from a pond on the farm. The store sells pecans, walnuts, jam, apple butter and other foods. In the fall, there are free hayrides and a hay fort for the kids.

Buckner is home to Sibley Orchards and Cider Mill, where you can pick blackberries thru August; three varieties of apples after Labor Day; and pumpkins in October. Hayrides through the orchard are available all season, with a stop at the lake where you can picnic and roast hot dogs. At the fruit stand, they have cider, fruit and preserves. Last year, they cleared a grove of apple trees, so they have a good supply of apple wood for your smoker.

Rain or shine, load up on pesticide-free blueberries, blackberries and gooseberries at Missouri Highland Farm, in Jamestown. Get some exercise and fresh air, have a picnic, and pick some of the best fresh fruit around. While you’re there, pick up some of Mary Lou’s natural Poison Ivy Soap to cure those itches.

In Madison, Wilsdorf Berry Patch sells u-pick and they-pick strawberries, red raspberries, andblackberries; also radishes, rhubarb, green onions, and assorted lettuces. Purchase jellies and jams made from their fruit. Debbie’s book, Fruits of the Midwest—A Cookbook and Guide from Harvest to Table, can be purchased at the patch.

Berry King Farm, south of Joplin, specializes in thornless blackberries. Pick blueberries June to August; blackberries July to September. The fruit is grown using natural practices, without any synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. You can eat their berries directly from the vine. Frozen berries are available.

Wind Ridge Farm
is located in the St. Louis suburb of New Melle. You can pick-your-own blueberries thru July; blackberries, late June thru August; and peaches, mid-July to September. Pre-picked peaches are available. During peach-picking season, they often give wagon rides to and from the best spots. This is a great outing for the kids.

Liberty Blueberry Farms
, outside of Farmington, has nine acres of blueberries and three acres of blackberries; plus already-picked produce.

In Highlandville, Ozark Mountain Orchard grows blueberries, blackberries, red raspberries, apples, pears, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melons, and 14 varieties of yellow and four types of white peaches. You can pick it yourself at the farm, and their fresh fruit is available at their store in Springfield.

Beside the Katy Trail, in Marthasville, stop at Thierbach Orchards to pick-your-own berries, peaches, and apples. Thierbach’s market sells fresh fruit, vegetables, jams, salsas and other goodies. There are mazes fit for all ages, and other family-friendly activities.

Lakeview Farms is a family-oriented pick-your-own strawberry, raspberry, pumpkin and gourd farm in St. Peters. While you are there, prospect for gold in the creek, dig for diamonds, go on a treasure hunt and feed the animals and geese.

For a different kind of u-pick outing, visit Winding Brook Estate Lavender Farm, in Eureka. Enjoy the beauty and fragrance of blooming lavender in a setting reminiscent of times gone by. During blooming season (June-October), pick your own bouquet, while sipping refreshing lavender lemonade. Stop in their Lavender Shoppe and surround yourself with all things lavender while searching through trinkets and treasures tucked into the 100-year-old farmhouse. Visit the website for information about their Spring Tea Lunch events.

Plan ahead for your visit to a u-pick location, and keep several things in mind: crop yields vary from year to year, depending on Mother Nature; what’s fresh and ripe may vary from farm to farm; on busy days, some fruit may be “picked out” early; every location has different operating days and hours; many vendors take only cash; and be mindful of the weather. Safest bet—always call ahead and check before you go.

As you can see, no matter what region of Missouri you visit, you are never far from something fresh. Grab some plastic bags or a bucket, pack a lunch, put the family in the car and get out to the farm. You won’t be disappointed.

To find many more interesting, family-friendly activities in Missouri, logon to www.VisitMO.com, where you’ll find listings for other Missouri attractions, events and vacation ideas. On the website, you can order a free copy of the Official Missouri Travel Guide and use the interactive online edition—also, the Travel Guide is available by calling 800-519-4800. Download the free iPhone app: “Official Missouri Travel Guide.”

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