do you have a u-pick operation?

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by InHisName, Jun 28, 2006.

  1. InHisName

    InHisName Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 25, 2006
    NE WA
    Considering putting in a u-pick, does any one have one and what are the do's, donts, pitfalls and successes you have found?
  2. GeorgiaberryM

    GeorgiaberryM Well-Known Member

    Mar 30, 2004
    southwest AR
    You didn't mention what you are planning to pick at your u-pick, but check out the site for my family's u-pick blackberry and blueberry farm, This farm has been open to the public since the seventies and berry season is alot of fun for everyone. But getting ready to face the public in the large quantities that you need to be profitable can be a big investment - parking, bathroom, washing up area, containers to pick in, scales. . . that said, don't make it too complicated, and post the hours and days you will be open and stick to it to avoid burnout - otherwise you will never be able to do other chores or rest.

    This season they were open from 7am - noon, every day but thurs and sun. They charge by the pound ($1.50 this season) and use a nice commercial digital scale and regular cash register to check people out.

    Keeping the place well mowed and cleaned is critical - people are afraid of snakes and critters. This takes up a great deal of labor time during picking season. A few years ago they bought a dixie chopper ZTR mower and it is the best money they ever spent - now the mowing is acheivable and there is time to do other things too, like sleep LOL.

    Good Luck!

  3. shawnee

    shawnee Well-Known Member

    Oct 31, 2004
    We bought an orchard a year ago Feb. Already had our own scale, had market gardened for three years before. Sell asparagas, rhubarb, early girl bush determinate tomatoes (greenhouse), burpless, straight 8's and pickling cukes, blackberries (freeze damage this year), peaches and apples. Also had summer squash and zuccini. Offered geraniums (from seed) and wave petunias (big seller!).

    People will buy anything they can get their hands on. Had to fence off with locked gate our family garden as they tend to roam to look over orchard, etc. Everybody comes to our place to buy - we haul NOTHING anywhere.
    KEEP REGULAR HOURS. Best advice I can give you. We are surrounded within 5 miles by 4 towns; larger towns 25 and 15 minutes away (talking populations of 3500 and 14,000. Folks will drive to you if you offer something with superior quality they can't pick up in their super wally worlds or local grocery stores. Asparagus sells very well. Have to have refrigeration, though. Same for apples. Sometimes you have a freeze (no peaches and barely any apples last year).

    Have 2 greenhouses and offer tomatoes early - by father's day. You have to find one that doesn't split. Bush early girl determinate only one prev. owner could find. We experimented with 2 rows of a type K-State guaranteed wouldn't split. Better tasting, 2 weeks behind, and man did they split. Caruso and Calypso. Caruso espec. tasty. Plan on putting some outside in our summer garden next year. Have empire and celebrities in summer garden outside.

    Had corn last year - bored as no peaches and very, very few apples so tried it - people liked it, but very labor intensive. Had to fence to keep coons, etc. out. Worms got in to silks, too. Folks wanted to clean it right on property, so dragged a new alum. trash can next to porch and cleaned what hubby picked. Customers joined in every morn. Bagged rest and sold so much an ear.

    Hubby wants to try strawberries - I balk. Know I will end up picking, keeping coons out a chore, would need nets to protect from birds, etc. Hate to see things waste and if heat/mosquitoes prevail, I'd be out there.

    Golf carts good incentive for blackberry pickers! FInd a cheap one if you can. Large wagons - steel mesh-type at Orscheln's - work great for apples. Large, comfortable handle, pelnty of rooms for apples in boxes, etc. We have 2 and plan on getting more. Also good to haul stuff and pick produce when hooked onto back of golf cart. Again, golf carts a life-saver for us. We'd be lost w/o it!

    Mowing isn't bad if you have a rider. We have a Husqvarna mower/tractor and 14 acres. Bought a drag-behind attachment mower from Orscheln's to get under trees. Daughter went on strike push-mowing around and under trees. Works better this year. Good thing about dry conditions - haven't mowed for 3 weeks except for spot mowing near patio!.

    Just find out what people like and you can live with. Watch out for fruit trees, though. Very, very labor intensive. Start pruning in January, have to thin fruit within 6-8 inches early spring, spray every 8-10 days til mid-summer - then every 2 weeks. Stop before harvest, though. THEN you pick. Help can be hard to find. Really only have Dec. off with apples.

    We send 1 newsletter with fruit due-dates on back and answer promptly any phone messages. Keep a list of what folks want if you don't have enough when they come. Follow religously. Folks like to have newsletters; personal touch and they feel involved. Expensive but worth it.

    Good luck! Love to see folks start home or market gardening!
  4. marvella

    marvella Well-Known Member

    Oct 12, 2003
    this is very encouraging. i know i have always been willing to drive extra miles to get good, fresh, locally grown food. i have been considering setting this up for my retirement, starting with u-pick blueberries, and the extra from the garden. with the mistrust of our food supply, and increased gas prices = higher prices in the grocery store.... this has to be the way to go for farmers, if they want to survive. i am a couple miles down a scenic back road, off a federal hwy, a scenic route named one of the top 10 in the country. there is a growing market.

    good thread. i'm interested in what others have to say.
  5. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2004
    I know of two individuals who tried upick in this area and failed.
    one was a stawberry u pick and one was a raspberry farm.
    Here the biting bugs (mosquitoes, blackflies, deer flies) that people rather not go out and u pick and most prefer to buy already picked by someone else. People here will pay good money for fresh picked wild blueberries by someone else. Most buy from the store and farmer's market's get cleaned out every saturday if there are berries picked to be sold by someone else.
    A good idea in principal, but U pick seems to work in locations near big cites or other enviornments than this area. Near the city going west is more praire like and daytime U pick seem to work well there as they are also on the route to weekend camping for the city crowds. They like to stop and do that activity as part of their weekend camping outings.
  6. amwitched

    amwitched Well-Known Member

    Feb 14, 2004
    I have a U-pick strawberry farm 45 minutes from my house that I frequent in the spring. DH has learned the virtues of homemade strawberry jam and now I get to make it every year for him (and me too). They also do blackberries, potatoes and pumpkins (in season). They have opened a second location within the last couple of years, so they must really be doing well.

    I would think that variety would be your best choice. I would even consider green beans. They are low maintenance and great growers - plus they add to the health of the soil and not just leach all of the nutrients out of it.

    I have not talked to the owners about how much picking that they actually have to do - but they do offer jams, jellies and homemade strawberry ice cream at their stand. So I would presume that those products would be made from any extra fruit that they would have picked.

    Good luck on your venture.