Picking your own berries is a beloved tradition for many Northwest Arkansas families. When summer comes around, the whole family heads out to fill pails with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries — and later in the season, you can pick your own peaches, pecans, pumpkins, and more.
The pandemic has made a lot of us more hygiene-minded, though, so this year you might be wondering whether U-pick farms are safe. Our U-pick safety tips make sure your experience is positive.
Follow the rules
A U-pick farm might have signs asking visitors to wash their hands, to stay in a certain area, or to visit without pets. Follow these signs.
There may also be notices asking you not to pick fruit if you are ill, or not to sample the fruit before washing it. These rules are for your protection.
Park in designated areas to avoid accidents or contamination of crops by vehicle fluids.
Some farms may still be following COVID-19 safety protocols. While fully vaccinated people might feel comfortable without masks or social distancing, it is courteous to follow the farm’s rules. As of this writing, only 31% of Arkansans have been fully vaccinated.
Handwashing for U-pick safety
Wash your hands before you start picking. It’s possible to spread disease while picking fruit. Make sure kids wash their hands after using toilet facilities.
There should be no animals allowed in the area where produce is being picked. Straw or mulch on the ground should not show signs of animals. If animal feces are visible, choose another farm, or let the farmers know.
The people handling money should not also be handling produce. Sometimes demand might make an “all hands on deck” situation; in that case, workers should wash their hands before handling produce. Some farms have containers you can drop money into or similar safety practices. Cooperate with them.
Wash the produce
Wash the produce before you eat, can, or freeze it. You can use a pan of fresh water with a little vinegar and baking soda mixed into it, and rinse the fruit with fresh water. Strawberries left damp will spoil quickly, so don’t soak them. Turn them out on a towel and dry them after they’ve been cleaned.
Healthy outdoor activity and vitamin-rich fruit make a great combination. Follow these U-pick safety tips for a safe and wholesome experience.
Find a U-pick farm in Northwest Arkansas.