Bring the consumer to your farm with pick-your-own operations

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — Pick-your-own or U-Pick operations connect consumers to their food in literally, a hands-on fashion, explains Chris Zdorovtsov, SDSU Extension Community Development Field Specialist.

“U-Pick operations bring consumers to the farm and give the customer the opportunity to harvest fruits and vegetables themselves,” said Zdorovtsov.

Consumers attracted to U-Pick operations tend to not mind the extra effort, in fact, Zdorovtsov says, some families consider a visit to a U-Pick farm a great family-friendly outing. She adds that U-Pick customers tend to be more focused on fresh, high quality produce or they are looking to purchase bulk quantities for canning or freezing at a lower price.

U-Pick operations can vary greatly.

“Some U-Pick operations are very focused – such as an apple orchard or pumpkin patch – while others welcome repeat customers throughout the season with a range of crops,” she said. The season-long farms can kick off the harvest with asparagus and rhubarb in the spring, move into strawberries in the late spring, offer raspberries and pie cherries in the summer, finishing with apples and pumpkins in the fall.”

If you’re a grower considering a U-Pick operation, Zdorovtsov encourages you to consider how much crop diversity you are willing to have when working with inexperienced harvesters and hosting multiple guests in the field.

“The task and cost of picking the crop is passed on to customers, reducing grower expenses, however, inexperienced customers can damage crops while picking and liability insurance rates may increase due to guests on your property,” she said.

Communication to the customer is key Zdorovtsov said. She explains that depending on weather, harvest times shift throughout the growing season, which means growers need the ability to be in contact with their customers throughout the season.

Pick-Your-Own operations should provide ample packing containers, good roads, clean trails, and restrooms and create a pleasant and educational setting for families with small children. Often other entertainment or agritourism-type activities are provided for the customer.

For more information and resources on Pick-Your-Own Operations visit the Local Foods community on