The PYOP (pick your own produce) season has begun! It starts with strawberries in the spring, then continues with more delicious fruits and veggies in the summer and fall. Heading out to the farm to do some picking is among my favorite seasonal activities with the kids. It’s a nice break from the urban bustle and a great chance to show them that food doesn’t magically appear on a shelf at Trader Joe’s or on a restaurant plate. Even better, the enjoyment continues with a basketful of fresh produce at home. The time is ripe for planning your own PYOP outing. Here are some of the area’s most popular places to reap some of the best treats of spring, summer, and fall. Happy Picking!
Less than 20 miles from DC in Waldorf, Md, Schlagel Farms is one of the more popular pick-your-own strawberry places in the area with their season often beginning before other area farms — and because that’s the only PYO they offer. As of today, May 12, they are open and should be yielding berries until early June. While there, you can also purchase bedded plants grown in their greenhouse, romp on the playground, and treat the kids – and yourself! – to ice cream. Schlagel’s is open for picking from 8am – 7pm seven days a week. Follow them on Facebook to stay updated on their pickings.
Westmoreland Berry Farm
The farm in Virginia’s historic Northern Neck also opened their strawberry fields today and welcome visitors to PYO everyday through Sunday, May 17. Come June, the rest of the berries (black, blue, rasp, and cherries) will become ready for picking, and peaches, nectarines, and plums won’t be far behind (see their approximate schedule here). Along with PYO, a goat walk, cow train, hay ride, and play area are fun for kids. Picking hours are 10am – 4pm, and the farm is open 10am – 6pm.
Great Country Farms
At the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley, Great Country offers much more than just pick-your-own opportunities. The farm is well known for its big seasonal festivals and fun farm-themed attractions. A hayride takes you out to the picking fields, and kids might spy an emu or goat on the way. Visitors also have access to the barnyard, mazes, a cow train, and jumping pillow. Their u-pick strawberry fields are expected to open the third week of May, and you can get updates on them via Facebook and Twitter. Asparagus is available at the same time, and more berries, plums, tomatoes, okra, green beans, and hot peppers will follow in late spring and summer. The weekends of May 23-24 and May 30-31 are the annual Strawberry Jubilee with live music, pie eating contests, tart tosses, tasty food, and more. Babies 9-12 months can compete in the diaper derby, a crawl to the finish line, to compete for great prizes. Admission is $8/child $10/adult on weekdays, and $10/child $12/adult on festival weekends. Open daily 9am- 6pm.
With three locations in Northern Virginia, Wegmeyer offers varying strawberry picking experiences as the settings differ at each. PYO at a historic homestead in Hamilton, then set up lunch at a picnic table (BYO) and let the kids play on a John Deere tractor slide and playground. At Oatlands, the patch and era-themed attire at the historic mansion will whisk you back to the 1800’s, and while visiting the patch is free, you can purchase tour passes for the garden and/or mansion. And at Gilbert’s Corner, enjoy strawberry picking in its most natural state; the no-fuss location is perfect for a simple outing. PYO should start in late May, and go well into June. Check the website for updates, hours, and direction. Bonus: Thursdays are Family Days at all three spots, and you can get a 25% discount simply by mentioning KFDC!
Mackintosh Fruit Farm
The family-owned farm in the Shenandoah Valley will open their farm to the public in late May (check the website or call for an update) with access to their strawberry fields, then blueberries, peaches, brambles, apples, and paw paw. Plan on lunch while you’re there — along with fruits and veggies, the farm also offers a variety of menu items prepared fresh every day from their own produce. Walk it all off afterward along a trail that winds through the fields and woods of the farm and let the kids play it off on the playground. This year they will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 8am – 6pm, plus Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.
Strawberry season in the popular pick-your-own fields opens in very late May this year (exact date still TBD). More berries, peaches, apples, and pumpkins come later. Along with PYO, there are animals to visit — goats, pigs, and chickens are some of the farm’s residents. And Homestead also scores high on scenery — the lovely pastoral setting in Montgomery County makes you feel like you’re way more than 20 miles from the city. When open, the farm operates seven days a week, and PYO hours are 9am – 5pm. You can sign up to receive weekly updates by email to stay up to date on their crops.
About an hour’s drive from DC in Howard County, Larriland Farms always gets great reviews for both it’s produce and beauty. The pick-your-own season opens in late May – early June with strawberries, and they’ll have the full spectrum of berries following soon after, just about every variety of peaches, and loads of veggies available from June – October, too. (See the list and view schedules on the website.) Larriland employs Integrated Pest Management, meaning pesticides are a last resort, to keep pests below an acceptable level with minimum harmful impact on the environment. Summer hours are Tuesdays 9am – 8pm, Wednesday to Friday 9am – 6pm, Saturday & Sunday 9am – 5pm.
The farm might be best known for it’s Halloween and Easter extravaganzas, but they have a bounty of great crops, too. Strawberry fields will be open to visitors everyday, expecting to start in early June. Following soon after are more berries and sugar snap and English peas. Potatoes, apples, and pumpkins come later. Picnic there and let the kids play on the slides and playground. In past strawberry seasons their hours have been 8:30am – 6pm during the week, and 8:30am – 5pm on weekends. Stay updated on their status by following on Facebook and Twitter.
Across the river in Fauquier County, VA, Hollin Farms will kick off its strawberry picking season in late May, and it should last several weeks after that. Hours are 9am – 4pm Wednesday through Sunday, and they recommend calling ahead to confirm that picking fields are open. But, wait, the PYO doesn’t stop with strawberries! Other spring crops that you’re welcome to gather include lettuce, peas, arugula, bok choy, radishes, Swiss chard. Come summer, peaches, plums, blackberries, red raspberries, sour cherries, and summer veggies are available. Fall brings apples, home-grown Pumpkin Patch, fall vegetables, potatoes, and dig-your-own peanuts. And a special P.S. to meat lovers: they pride themselves on their grass-fed beef.
Do you have a favorite PYOP farm that you don’t see here? Feel free to share in the comments, if so!