How U-Pick Farming Can Be A Sustainable Option For Your Operation

If the idea of letting strangers onto your farm to harvest your crops without any previous experience or training sounds a little strange — or worse yet, dangerous — then perhaps all you need is a little perspective.

Lisa Schacht of Schacht Farm Market in Winchester, OH.
Lisa Schacht of Schacht Farm Market in Winchester, OH.

Vegetable growing operations across the country have incorporated U-Pick or “pick your own” (PYO) options into their farms for several reasons — supplemental income being paramount — and are reaping the rewards, whileat the same time promoting agricultural awareness to the public.

One operation in particular, Schacht Farm Market in Winchester, OH, has experienced the benefits of the U-Pick trend over the last couple decades, and is using it as a way to remain sustainable and to offer a valuable experience to community members interested in getting their hands dirty and learning where their food comes from.

The Schacht’s U-Pick offerings include strawberries, peas, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, and fall greens. Of the 130 acres the Schachts have on their central Ohio farm, 5 are dedicated solely to U-Pick vegetables.

When they initially incorporated U-Pick into their farm in the ‘90s, owners Lisa Schacht and her husband David were motivated by a different set of circumstances than you might associate with the trend now. At the time, most of the Schachts’ crops required hand harvesting, and they were having trouble amassing enough labor to get the job done.

They saw the trend cropping up in other area farms and used that as an opportunity to bring people onto the farm, give them direct access to the produce, and get help with some of the hard work.

“Our intent was, if these people are interested in doing this, and we need the work done, why not offer them the opportunity to do it themselves?” she says.

During the ‘80s, as Schacht explains it, a lot of her U-Pick customers would come to the farm to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables in the fall for the winter. But in the ‘90s the trend evolved to a more “experience-oriented” activity, where people became interested in spending time with their family outdoors in a rural setting.

Of all the crops the Schachts have offered in their U-Pick operation, pumpkins are by far the easiest and safest for the customers to pick.
Of all the crops the Schachts have offered in their U-Pick operation, pumpkins are by far the easiest and safest for the customers to pick.

Choose Crops Carefully
In the beginning, the Schachts offered a limited selection of crops as U-Pick because they realized they were essentially allowing unskilled laborers onto the farm to harvest crops, and they needed to be able to control the situation.

The U-Pick crops had to be easily identifiable at maturity, sturdy, and be able to tolerate a variety of picking styles, so they went with strawberries in the springtime and pumpkins in the fall.

A lot of careful consideration goes into choosing the right U-Pick crops, and Schacht has used both trial and error and common sense to determine what works, and what does not.

Of all the crops she’s offered, she says that pumpkins are by far the easiest and safest for the customers to pick, because at harvest time the plant is already on its decline, and its handles make for easy picking. She also mentions that greens have been a good option for her customers, but require a little more supervision and guidance, which her workers are more than happy to provide.

Pages: 1 2

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “How U-Pick Farming Can Be A Sustainable Option For Your Operation

Marketing Stories
FruitsShare Your Story Of Environmental Stewardship
May 1, 2015
As I wrote this column, Earth day, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary, was quickly approaching. The annual holiday, which is Read More
FruitsExpand Your On-Farm Market’s Reach In A Click Or Two
May 1, 2015
USDA’s local food directories can help promote your business while expanding your reach to new customers. Read More
FruitsWhat USDA Local Food Directory Is Right For Your Business?
May 1, 2015
According to the USDA’s Local Food Directories, there are specific definitions for farmers’ market, on-farm market, CSA, and food hub. Read More
Plato the Publixaurus
Citrus1 Million Promos And Counting Pump Up Florida Farmers
April 30, 2015
Supermarket stalwart Publix pushes Fresh From Florida fare at record level. Read More
MarketingVidalia Onion Committee Kicks Off “V Is For Vidalia” Marketing Campaign
April 28, 2015
Promotion focuses on the benefits of Vidalia onions to younger consumers via digital and social media activities. Read More
Apple Grower of the YearTerhune Orchards Celebrates 40th Anniversary
April 24, 2015
It’s a Mount-u-mental celebration for the 2005 Apple Grower Of The Year and family. Read More
CitrusFlorida Agriculture Rings Up Record $4.2 Billion In International Sales
April 13, 2015
Accomplishment represents third year in a row that Sunshine State exports have topped the $4 billion mark. Read More
The Latest
FruitsUSDA Announces Grants To Enable More Farmers Markets To…
May 7, 2015
Purchasing fresh produce at Farmer’s Markets may get easier for low-income families. Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Read More
Leafy VegetablesLGMA Welcomes New Officers And Board Members For 2015
May 5, 2015
The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) welcomed several newly elected members and appointed new officers during a meeting of Read More
CitrusHow You Can Survive The Mobilegeddon
May 4, 2015
The Mobilegeddon is upon us. No, this isn’t a time to prepare disaster bunkers, or buy canned food in bulk. Read More
FruitsShare Your Story Of Environmental Stewardship
May 1, 2015
As I wrote this column, Earth day, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary, was quickly approaching. The annual holiday, which is Read More
FruitsExpand Your On-Farm Market’s Reach In A Click Or …
May 1, 2015
USDA’s local food directories can help promote your business while expanding your reach to new customers. Read More
FruitsWhat USDA Local Food Directory Is Right For Your Busine…
May 1, 2015
According to the USDA’s Local Food Directories, there are specific definitions for farmers’ market, on-farm market, CSA, and food hub. Read More
Plato the Publixaurus
Citrus1 Million Promos And Counting Pump Up Florida Farmers
April 30, 2015
Supermarket stalwart Publix pushes Fresh From Florida fare at record level. Read More
MarketingVidalia Onion Committee Kicks Off “V Is For Vidalia” Ma…
April 28, 2015
Promotion focuses on the benefits of Vidalia onions to younger consumers via digital and social media activities. Read More
Apple Grower of the YearTerhune Orchards Celebrates 40th Anniversary
April 24, 2015
It’s a Mount-u-mental celebration for the 2005 Apple Grower Of The Year and family. Read More
CitrusFlorida Agriculture Rings Up Record $4.2 Billion In Int…
April 13, 2015
Accomplishment represents third year in a row that Sunshine State exports have topped the $4 billion mark. Read More
Summer Foley, Miss Florida Citrus 2015
Citrus6 Questions With Miss Florida Citrus 2015
April 7, 2015
Pageant's much-anticipated comeback brings with it a breath of fresh air. Read More
Farm ManagementLocation Is King When Marketing
March 31, 2015
University of Pennsylvania Wharton School marketing professor David Bell was being interviewed on my local NPR station about his recently Read More
Fresh From Florida Strawberry Parfait recipe
BerriesNew Partnership Sends Florida Strawberries To Puerto Ri…
March 26, 2015
Latest addition extends Sunshine State’s agricultural export reach in the Caribbean. Read More
FruitsHow To Get Started With Partnerships And Sponsorships
March 25, 2015
Mark Saunders of Saunders Farm says your business is never too small or too big to get more value for what you do on your farm. Read More
FruitsValue Through Partnerships And Sponsorships [Opinion]
March 25, 2015
Mark Saunders of Saunders Farms says admission is one way to get value for what you do, but sponsorships and partnerships are the next level. Read More
Summer Foley gets crowned Miss Florida Citrus 2015 by 2004 winner Nikki Upthegrove Matthews and reigning Miss Florida Vicotria Cowen
CitrusMeet The New Miss Florida Citrus
March 24, 2015
Pageant marks comeback of longstanding industry tradition. Read More
Apples & PearsMonster Crops: How Much Is Too Much?
March 24, 2015
With larger-than-ever crops, more new varieties and uncertain markets, we explore the current state of apple production and what it means for the future of the industry. Read More
FNV logo
FruitsBranding Fruit Is A Good Call
March 16, 2015
The new FNV marketing campaign, launched by the Produce Marketing Association, makes sense in targeting teens. Read More