We’ve been berry picking quite a bit this summer. Take a look at our trip to an organic blueberry farm and how we incorporate it into a healthy and active lifestyle.
On Tuesday we rubbed the morning sand from our eyes, pulled on tennis shoes, and loaded into the vehicle. As we drove, the landscape of urban lakes with walking paths and charming two-story houses from the 1900s shifted first to retailers, massive indoor malls and Swedish furniture shops and then to a selection of oversized suburban houses and glorified townhomes before it faded to farmland, green and growing.
Just 45 minutes south of the city on Highway 77, a mere 20 minutes beyond the Minnesota Zoo, you hit the mother lode: CSAs, chef-supported agriculture, and u-pick berry farms at every turn. Tucked in between two CSAs, Open Hands Farm and Spring Wind Farm, you’ll find a patch of blueberries ripe for the picking. Aaron and Molly and their sweet son Ben will greet you at the top of the driveway, provide you with quaint wood buckets, and send you off into the rows of more than 1,600 3-year-old blueberry plants bursting with ripe fruits.
Molly from Little Hill Berry Farm is a wonder, and hearing her speak passionately about her organic farm (up for certification next year) and exposing children to the process definitely sets her apart from your average pick-your-own. We share the belief that the road to healthy eating and lifestyle starts with early exposure to the entire process, farm to fork and everything in between.
In our area, blueberry farms can be hard to come by and farms that allow young kids to pick even harder. Because my impetus for picking is definitely because I want to provide the experience that I grew up with for my kids, farms that don’t allow children under age 6 aren’t an option for us. The chance that the remaining farms are using organic practices is even less.
Little Hill Berry Farm opened this week for picking. You can head there to pick your own blueberries now through mid-August on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8a-noon. As with any pick-your-own farm, call ahead to be sure they aren’t picked out for the day, and be ready to taste a few of the sweetest sun-warmed berries you’ve ever experienced.
We were lucky enough to get the preopening tour of the grounds, my children exploring the rows of berries and seeing up close and personal where their food comes from. Lene instantly declared that she wants to celebrate her birthday with a blueberry picking day with her friends followed by making a recipe right after. We learned that the first berry in a cluster is the largest of the bunch and the first to ripen, called the king berry and how to search for ripe berries. Of the three pounds we picked the first day out, only 3 cups were left when we pulled into the driveway. The kids’ mouths stained blue from the fresh fruit, their heads were bursting with excitement over what we could make with the remaining berries.
The case for picking your own berries:
- Exposing kids to the full circle of the food process helps them connect with their food. When they have met the farmers and seen the plants, they have a new respect for where those berries come from and gives them a sense of ownership over their food and food choices.
- That connection gets stronger and can garner a sense of accomplishment when they get to share their berries or the product of their picking with friends and neighbors later.
- Get your kids excited about new dishes by incorporating your freshly picked berries into different dishes. When you introduce new foods with foods your children like, they can be more willing to give them a go. Try adding them to salads, flipping them in flapjacks, baking them up in new breads, or freezing them into green tea ice pops.
- Finally, picking berries is a great summer activity that gets you out of the house and on the move. Because berry picking happens in the early morning hours, the sun usually isn’t full strength yet, and it can be a great way for kids to work up an appetite for lunch.
The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council asked me to share how I incorporate blueberries into a healthy lifestyle with my family for National Blueberry Month! They also offered me the opportunity to ask Alison Sweeney from Biggest Loser and Days of Our Lives a few questions on how she does, as well.
FFMF: How do you involve your children in all aspects of your meals?
Alison: Getting my kids involved in the kitchen is really important to me because eating habits form at a young age. One of our favorite hot-summer-day activities is making smoothies. Not only are they nutritious, they’re also easy and fun. Here’s a quick and easy blueberry smoothie recipe we love.
FFMF: How do you encourage your children to take an interest in their food?
Alison: Make food fun! Don’t be afraid to give them finger foods – my kids love these Blueberry Sparklers because they’re super easy and fun. My main goal is to teach my kids what healthy portions should be, it’s all about balance.
You can grab more fun recipes and blueberry facts on the Little Blue Dynamos site and through their social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube, and don’t forget to share how you will #BeDynamic for National Blueberry Month.
This post was sponsored by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, which means they paid for me to share something I wanted to share anyway. All opinions, experiences, and thoughts expressed are my own. Savvy?