Strawberry Picking on the Farm
This post was originally written in 2016 but the information is current – 2017 opening day at Stone Haven is Saturday June 17th.
As a tween/teen growing up in the Niagara area (known as the fruit belt), it was inevitable that you would go strawberry picking on the farm. Strawberry picking was the first paying job my friends and I had. We would get picked up by bus and shuttled to a nearby farm to spend the day in the sun, picking strawberries in the field alongside the seasonal workers and at the end of the day the farm would pay us for each “flat” we picked. It wasn’t glamourous or high paying but it was lots of fun.
These days I enjoy pick your own (PYO) as a leisurely activity to enjoy with my family and a chance to share with my girls where their food comes from and why it’s important to support our local farmers. With memories of days gone by in my mind, I headed to Stonehaven Farm along with two of our summer students, Ben & Emilie to pick some fresh delicious berries.
One of the great things about buying direct from a farmer is the chance to learn more about your food and how it is grown. At Stonehaven Farm we met up with Heidi, one of the owners of this family run farm. Stonehaven has been owned by her husband’s family since 1957 and Heidi’s roots are also in farming – she grew up on a dairy farm. In the market, the smell of fresh strawberries is in the air and you can purchase them pre-picked if you don’t want to head into the field to PYO. One of the first things I learned was there are hundreds of varieties of strawberries including L’Amour, Cavendish and Wendy to name a few. To a layman such as myself they all seem the same but as Heidi explained, there are subtle differences in colour, size, shape, sweetness and of course growing season. One other helpful hints she gave us is that if you plan to freeze strawberries, they should be rinsed, air-dried and then placed on a cookie sheet in a single layer to freeze. Once frozen you can transfer the individual berries into an freezer container. The beauty of this is, when you need berries you can just grab what you need and put the rest back in the freezer. Fresh berries will last 2-3 days in the fridge but really who can resist eating them, mine are never are left that long!
If you choose to pick your own berries, make a quick stop in the market to purchase either a basket or a bucket (which can be recycled for a discounted return visit) and then it’s straight to picking. Today Karen was manning the field and was able to give us some tips on where the best picking spots were. Rumor had it that the back left part of the field was a hot spot for juicy red berries so we made our way along the path to our “spot”. You might notice that the fields seem a bit overgrown and in need of some weeding but that’s not a bad thing. Stonehaven Farm is pesticide free and they don’t spray for weeds – all good things. Under the warm sun, we picked until our containers were full and then took the fruits of our labour back to the office for everyone to enjoy!
As a life long PYO gal, I had a great time on the farm but I had to find out what Emilie and Ben thought of the experience….
“Sunshine and strawberries, is there anything better? As a Tourism Burlington summer student, when I heard that I would be picking my own strawberries at Stonehaven Farms, I was excited. The last time I went strawberry picking I was in elementary school, so this week’s outing brought back happy memories of my childhood. Arriving at the farm, we were immediately greeted with the fresh scent of strawberries. After exploring the food market, we set off into the field armed with our buckets. We searched for the ‘secret spots’, which would boast the biggest and juiciest berries. The challenge of finding the ‘perfect’ one added to the overall fun experience. On the way home from work, I wondered what I should do with my share of the berries. Pies, crumbles, smoothies… the list of possibilities is pretty long. Despite all these delicious choices, however, I decided to eat them as they were. Sweet, juicy, brimming with flavour; there’s just nothing like fresh picked strawberries! I had a wonderful day at Stonehaven Farms. and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to feel welcomed by a friendly staff and would like to spend a day exploring a plentiful market and picking strawberries in the sunshine.” – Emilie
” Before my visit to Stonehaven I had never picked a strawberry in my life! As you could imagine I was very excited for the chance to do something I had never done before and it is safe to say that it did not disappoint. The farm itself offers a variety of goods ranging from locally grown vegetables to fresh baked cookies that provide the indoor market a delightful aroma. Once we were done hearing a quick history of the farm, we made our way to the strawberry fields to begin picking. In what seemed to be a few brief moments our bucket was already half-full! There were so many strawberries that the issue was no longer finding them but limiting yourself to just one bucket. After being in the fields for no more than 30 minutes we had already filled up 2 buckets with delicious strawberries that were ready to eat! Overall our trip to Stonehaven was awesome, not only did we get to pick delicious strawberries, we also got the chance to meet and talk to the wonderful staff and learn more about locally grown products. Even while writing this I am reminded of the taste of the strawberries we picked and how I wished I was able to pace myself more when eating them(my personal favorite was adding the strawberries in to a smoothie!). For anyone looking for a quick day trip or if you simply have a craving for fresh strawberries Stonehaven is the place to satisfy your needs as they provide activities(hay bale playground, corn maze etc.) for all ages while maintaining the charm of a working farm. It is a must visit location in the Burlington area.” – Ben
If you want to try pick your own, be sure to get to Stonehaven in the next few weeks as strawberry season comes and goes pretty quickly. Karen recommended checking their Facebook page, as it is updated regularly with what is available to pick and the weather conditions on the farm.