UCPR ripe for ‘You-Pick’ Excursions

Andrew Coppolino
UCPR ripe for ‘You-Pick’ Excursions
The UCPR is full of 'You-Pick' opportunities this summer, including several in Hawkesbury. Lalonde Raspberries, shown here, is located in Clarence-Rockland, just a few minutes south of Highway 17. (Photo : Andrew Coppolino)

A part of the farm-to-table movement, farm-gate sales extend to interactive “You-Pick” farming operations which invite customers into the fields to do their own harvesting for a range of produce that includes strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples, pumpkins and more.

You-Pick, in fact, is likely the best way to get the freshest fruits and vegetables right out of the field – virtually on the day they are at peak ripeness – and with premium quality.

With lower labour costs, no packaging and handling costs and no transportation costs, You-Pick prices can be lower. And the produce is certainly fresher.

But there is also a perhaps unmeasurable benefit in giving kids a chance to see where their food comes from, how it’s grown and help them better understand – by getting their hands a bit dirty – how a farm operates.

Here is a selection of “You-Pick” farms in the area. Please respect the rules and processes the farms have established to ensure health and safety and in order that a regular and plentiful rotation of crops is available throughout specific seasons.

It is also important to note that weather determines crop availability, so it is highly recommended before visiting that you check with individual venues for hours of opening and for what produce is available and when. Appropriate dress and footwear is also recommended.

Les Fruits du Poirier
2535 Concession Road 3, St-Eugène
(613) 402-3599 or (514) 792-3599

Open Friday to Sunday, Les Fruits du Poirier is chock-full of berries (except the ubiquitous blueberries and strawberries, which they don’t grow): an assortment of raspberries, haskaps, aronia, red currants, blackcurrants, Saskatoon berries and sea buckthorn (a hardy shrub bearing tart orange-yellow berries).

“We’re at the peak of flavour right now,” says co-owner Robert Poirier at the time of writing in mid-June.

The berries you pick at Les Fruits du Poirier are sold by weight and grow out of Poirier’s 24 “permaculture” acres of farm that produce what they describe as “superfruits” for You-Pick.

Les Jardins Lamoureux
1960 Highway 34, Hawkesbury
(613) 632-9600

You-Pick strawberries right now with raspberries and blueberries coming this summer at the Hawkesbury farm (with kiosks of ready-picked in Vankleek Hill and Alexandria). There’s a $5 fee per person (waived if you purchase three litres).

Domaine Cleroux
199 Route 300 East, Casselman
(613) 764-5543

Domaine Cleroux has about 800 fruit trees and features a 3,000-tap sugar shack, a kiosk with re-purposed 120-year-old ecclesiastical materials such as slate, wainscotting, tin ceilings, church benches and stained glass. The apple orchard produces Paula Red, Lobo, McIntosh, Honeycrisp and other varieties for weekend You-Pick starting in September. The apples are also used by Cleroux to make hard cider, apple butter, apple sauce, dried apple slices and apple juice.

Ferme Dagenais
1155 Stevens Road, Embrun
(613) 448-3167

Later this summer, head to Ferme Dagenais, a biodynamic operation (organic practices and beyond) for You-Pick apples and pears. There are about six heritage apple varieties including Novamac (a McIntosh-style apple developed in Nova Scotia) and Purple Passion, an apple ideal for cooking, juicing and cider.

Also available for You-Pick are So Sweet and Northbrite pears. Honey from their on-farm bees is available. Bring suitable footwear. Refer to their website for a list of apple- and pear-picking dates.

Ferme MISA
669 County Road 8, Casselman
(613) 915-6953

From June to early July (and possibly mid-July), MISA offers You-Pick June-bearing strawberries, sold by weight, from two acres of intensive-production rows. Check their Facebook page for daily updates and hours of opening.

Fraisière Duquette Strawberries
2236 rue Champlain Road, Clarence Creek
(613) 488-3284

Several June-bearing strawberry varieties take the season at Duquette from now until early July. Open until 7 p.m. or until picked out, whichever comes first. Priced by weight, with four litres of berries roughly $15. Picnic tables are available on-site. In the fall, You-Pick pumpkins will be available. Call ahead as hours vary depending on strawberry availability.

Lalonde Raspberries
1115 Baseline Rd, Clarence Creek
(613) 488-2845

A small You-Pick on Baseline Road just west of Lacasse Road. The Lalonde’s anticipate the raspberries for You-Pick will be ready in the next several weeks. Bring your own You-Pick container, pick and pay by the pound.

Les Verges Villeneuve and Blueberry Farm
1341 Rollin Road, Saint-Pascal Baylon
(613) 488-3077

Not quite open yet – start looking at their website in a week or so – Vergers Villeneuve in Saint-Pascal Babylon is anticipating an exceptional year when it comes to their fruit.

“For the first time ever, we had blueberries at the end of May. There was no frost,” says Michel Villeneuve who owns and operates the farm with his wife Carrie McKay.

In the early weeks of July, cherries, blueberries and raspberries will be ready to roll out on the family-oriented farm. Then in mid-August to September 20 varieties of apples will be awaiting You-Pick along with Golden Spice and John pears, the latter being good fruit for making perry.

The farm also makes more than a dozen fruit wines – dry, sweet, dessert and sparkling – including a bottle that sources sea buckthorn berries from Les Fruits du Poirier.

“But when we open depends on Mother Nature,” Villeneuve adds.

Pine Hill Orchard
1818 St Félix Road, Bourget
(613) 487-2064

Come to Pine Hill for the You-Pick apples, plums and pears. The farm supplies the containers, and you fill them by volume: small, medium or large.

About 21 varieties of apples are grown on the orchard: while most apples fall from the tree (and not far from it), the historic Cortland is the last variety to ripen – and has the ability to stay on the tree through winter, according to owner-farmer Paul Doran. Six years ago, he started growing “Clapp’s Favorite,” a pear that was discovered in Massachusetts in the mid-1800s. At the beginning of September, you will also find Italian plums ready for You-Pick.

“In a perfect year,” says Doran, “we have fruit starting on Labour Day and going until Thanksgiving.”

Food writer Andrew Coppolino lives in Rockland. He is the author of “Farm to Table” and co-author of “Cooking with Shakespeare.” Follow him on Instagram at @andrewcoppolino.

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