Right now, the mountains of Western North Carolina are in the thick(et) of berry season. BPR reports on the history of fruit picking in our region:
Farmers who had extra produce and not enough workers to pick it used to offer locals the option to pick fruits and vegetables themselves for a lower cost. That started what is now called U-Pick, explains Sarah Hart, communications coordinator for Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project(ASAP).
“Blackberries, blueberries and strawberries have long been good U-Pick crops,” said Hart.
ASAP started in the 1990s as regional farmers began transitioning away from growing tobacco. Now the nonprofit’s mission is to connect the community with local food. That includes a local guide with more than 80 U-PICK farms across the region. The U-Pick guide is on page 73.
“Agri-tourism is a piece of that with people visiting the amazing farms that are all around them. And U-Pick is a really fun way to do that,” said Hart.
Strawberry season is ending and blueberry season is just about to start. But because of some early heatwaves followed by late cold snaps, Hart warns that blueberries might be a bit late.
“That’s just the luck of nature and the challenge of climate change,” said Hart, who explained that there are also different micro-climates across Western North Carolina.
Hart advises that before you head out to a U-Pick farm, check with them to ensure its peak season. And as with any outdoor activity, wear sun protection.
You can find more local food here.