Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Alberta Open Farm Days: U-Pick It

This post was sponsored by a partnership between Alberta Open Farm Days, Yellowhead County, and Community Futures West Yellowhead.  I received monetary compensation in exchange for this post. As always, all thoughts and options are my 100% my own.  

 U-Pick It is the kind of U-Pick I've always dreamed of visiting, and have been on the lookout for awhile.  I've been able to find smaller U-Picks in the area that generally specialize in one or two items.   U-Pick It is unqiue in that it specializes in many different varieties of fruits and vegetables, making it your one stop shop for local, in season garden goodness. U-Pick It is located 2.5 km north of Evansburg at 53520 Range road 75.
U-Pick It is owned by Jonie Gerspacher, a local schoolteacher who dedicates her summers to her farm. "It gets really busy around May, when the planting starts and school is still in session" says Jonie.  Understandable.

 You can definitely tell that the farm is a labour of love.  Maintaining the immaculately weeded gardens, and pristine rows of fruit and vegetables take up the majority of the summer for Jonie, who operates the farm by herself, enlisting the help of two students when the picking gets to be too much for her to handle on her own. 

I was happy to see that my favourite fruit, raspberries, were prime for picking when I arrived.  Each morning Jonie updates her voicemail to announce what's ready and available that day, so it's a good idea to call ahead of time (1-780-727-4344) if you're looking for something specific.

Jonie gave me a great tour of her U-Pick farm, which I covered live on Facebook.  The post ended up trending in Alberta - it was so great to see that many people were interested in learning about local food.  You can check out the full video HERE which gives a beautiful walkthough of the entire farm with descriptions of each of the items, and some of the farm's history.

I visited the U-Pick on a scorching hot Saturday afternoon, and picked myself some veggies and herbs to take home for a Sunday roast dinner, also using beef from Stonepost Farms, and Russian blue potatoes from Cold Creek Farms.  My entire plate consisted of food that were grown and produced in Yellowhead County, which sparked a really fun idea for next summer (stay tuned!).

Though I was visiting before the U-Pick officially opened for the day, people were already there eager to pick.  I picked my veggies alongside two ladies who were getting ready to do a big batch of canning, and proudly held out their freshly picked veggies for me to take photos of.

Something I saw a lot of on each of the farms are Evans sour cherries.  The cherries are beautiful and bright in colour, produce a great yield, and make for a nice tart pie, sauce, jam, or one of my personal favourites - soaked in Brandy.

I found a lot of beauty on the farm that day - I felt completely at peace being in the garden, hands in the soil, with the sun beaming down on me. I couldn't help but think of how much fun I would have coming back with friends, or my young nieces. 

In addition to fruits and vegetables, the farm features a fully stocked herb garden, which I took advantage of while I was there.

At the end of the tour, Jonie helped me count up my bounty and I was shocked at just how inexpensive it was.  I went home with a cooler full of beets, carrots, onions, dill, peas, potatoes, and beans and it didn't even come to $40. 

"I like to keep my prices reasonable so that it's more appealing for people to visit - plus I don't think I could keep up with picking everything on my own otherwise" explains Jonie.

It was such a good feeling to be able to pick my own locally grown produce, I know I'll be adding U-Pick It to my summer bucket list each year.

If you'd like to check out this amazing U-Pick farm for yourself, be sure to join us for Alberta Open Farm Days, August 18/19, 2018.  You can tour all of the farms on your own in a self guided driving tour, or you can join a bus tour, which I will be creating a locally sourced lunch for.  I hope to see you out there!


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