pick your own tips

8 Pick-Your-Own Tips for First-Time Farm Visitors

Springtime in Ontario means that we’ll soon have an abundance of farm-fresh foods in Toronto, Vaughan, and other areas in the GTA. If you’re planning to visit a pick-your-own farm in the Toronto area, we have some essential pick-your-own tips for you, especially if you’re a first-timer!

1. Do Your Research

Before you hit the road, you’ll first want to do some online research on the Toronto-area pick-your-own farm you’re considering.

First, check out the info on their website and social media profiles to find out what pick-your-own food they offer (and when), their picking season(s) and days and hours of operation, their exact location, what other attractions they offer (e.g. corn maze in the Fall), what amenities their farm offers (e.g. washrooms), if their farm has any special restrictions (e.g. no pets), and more.

You should also check out online reviews about the farm, to find out what people think about the quality of produce there and the overall farm experience.

2. Confirm Important Dates

Call or email the farm to confirm any crucial details not listed on the website. If you have any particular needs (e.g. cannot go without a washroom available, require a particular form of payment, etc.), you should also check with them before you make the trip out there.

Even though the farm probably has crop seasons and availability mentioned on their website, you should consider calling the farm to confirm whether the particular fruit or vegetable is still available. If the farm has a particularly busy day and there’s not enough ripe crop available, you’ll want to know that before you drive all the way there.

3. Go Early

Once you’ve chosen your Toronto-area pick-your-own farm, plan to go early in the day, aiming for gate-opening. The crops that ripen one day may often be all picked by late morning the next day. So, to get the best selection of farm-fresh foods, get there for opening time.

4. Don’t Ignore the Sun

Another reason to hit the pick-your-own food farm first thing in the morning is that it allows you to get your picking done before the part of the day when the sun’s at its hottest.

But, whether you go in the morning or afternoon, you need to be aware that you’re a sitting duck for the sun’s rays out in the field. Protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun, such as sunburn, heat exhaustion/heat stroke, permanent skin or eye damage, wrinkles, and skin cancer by:

  • Wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher; apply it generously on exposed skin—don’t forget the back of your neck and ears, when you’re picking crops
  • Wearing a hat with a wide brim
  • Putting on your sunglasses (preferably with UVA and UVB protection)
  • Bringing a handheld umbrella if you’re extremely sensitive to sun or heat

5. Be Bug-Savvy

Depending on the season, time of day, weather, and nearby water or shade sources, you might be dealing with mosquitos, biting flies, and/or ticks. Bring a repellent containing DEET and apply according to the instructions before you start picking. If you have a bee sting allergy, have your  epi-pen on you at all times.

6. Dress for the Occasion

You don’t need to dress like a farmer when hitting a pick-your-own farm in the Toronto area, but you do need to dress for the weather. And don’t forget that picking can be dirty work, so don’t wear your Sunday best.

Wear closed-toe shoes only. If you’re in tick country, wear socks as well. If it’s rained recently, you might want to stick your rubber boots in your trunk. And it doesn’t hurt to always bring rain gear or an extra layer, like a sweater or a jacket, in your car when you head to the farm.

7. Know How to Pick

If it’s your first time doing the pick-your-own food thing, you might want to read up about how to pick the particular farm fresh food you’re going for. You’ll want to know how to tell if the fruit or vegetable is ripe, the best way to remove the fruit or veggie from the bush, stalk, or ground, and how to store it for transportation.

For example, it’s best to pick strawberries as early in the morning as possible, while the fruit’s still cool. And did you know that raspberry bushes can be prickly? You might want to wear some garden gloves. You also might want to bring your own bucket or an empty cooler for your farm-picked bounty.

8. Bring a Water Bottle

Most Toronto-area pick-your-own farms don’t sell or supply drinking water. And picking farm fresh foods  in the sun can be thirsty work. Make sure to bring a reusable bottle or two filled with water.

Visit Robintide Farms to Pick Your Own Produce

From mid-June to October, Robintide Farms offers farm-fresh food in the Toronto/Vaughan areas. Our family-owned farm provides an abundance of choice for pick-your-own food, including strawberries, raspberries, green beans, sweet peas, kale, beets, and pumpkins.

Once our Toronto-area pick-your-own farm is open for the season, you can come see us at 2720 King-Vaughan Road. Call us at (647) 988-2720 for any questions about our 2020 season and hours.

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