You pick!

Spring is finally here! And summer is days away. And that means it’s time for U-pick strawberry season! 

Last year, we went to Afton Apple Orchard in Hastings, where we usually pick apples in the fall. 

Maria, our oldest, proved to be an industrious little picker and was quite proud of her basket. Jane was obsessed with the goats. And Archie chilled in my baby carrier, content as ever. 

It was a lovely way to celebrate June — to play and pick and be enveloped by the vast summer sky stretching out above us. And the fruits of our labor were considerable — the most delicious strawberries: Yum!

Strawberry season typically lasts about four weeks. We recently checked in with the folks at Afton and the farm is expecting a mid-June start, possibly a bit later if the weather doesn’t stay consistently warm or maybe earlier if it becomes unseasonably hot, which is less likely.

Learn more about local farms at minnesotagrown.com and pickyourown.org.

When the time comes, here are 10 tips for taking your kids — specifically toddlers — berry picking:

  1. Call before you leave. You can also check for online updates. Hours are subject to change with unpredictable summer weather.
  2. Ditch the stroller. It won’t do well in rows of berries. Carry the baby and let your little toddlers test their legs.
  3. Wear sunblock. You’ll be out in an open field — no shelter or shade — so plan on a hat and/or sunscreen.
  4. Don boots or old shoes. The ground might be muddy. (Besides, rain boots look adorable on a pint-sized berry picker!)
  5. BYOB. Baskets aren’t provided, but your child will delight in having one to carry along.
  6. Pack baby wipes! It’s going to get sticky.
  7. Bring cash. Some U-pick farms don’t accept plastic.
  8. Consider timing. Morning is the ideal time to pick strawberries. In fact, when we went, Afton’s hours were 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Also consider going on a weekday to avoid crowds.
  9. Get some space. Ask to be away from the other pickers. Your request is likely to be granted, which can make things easier for both your kiddos and the others there.
  10. Go with the flow! It’s a wide open space, allowing you to see your toddlers at all times. They may be more interested in wandering the lanes than actual picking. Enjoy the experience no matter how many strawberries land in the basket. The goal is to have fun!


Christina Ries lives with her husband, Ted, and three young children in Inver Grove Heights. Write her at christina@mnparent.com.