As a local parent of a toddler looking for enriching experiences, Bella Organic is a u-pick farm that I keep going back to more than any other. I started in 2013 and have been there almost 10 times with my daughter.
I love that u-pick is such a rich experience that helps us feel more ownership over our food by knowing where it comes from and being more a part of how it gets to our table.
I feel like I can't go wrong by picking fruit, the same way I might be watching videos together or even reading a book.
I used to design games for kids with Disney and Sesame Street. I remember working on computer activities to help convey numbers, letters and colors. Those activities feel so shallow now. My daughter learned red because it's the color of a juicy sweet strawberry and green because it's bitter and not ripe. She picked the berries and smelled and felt and ate them. She figured it out with a little guidance. At 2 years old, she was discriminating ripe fruit for berries, apples, pears. She might not know the names of the colors, but she had sensory-support for connecting the colors to distinct meanings that meant something important to her.
Back to the practical matters of the trip:
As with any u-pick farm, it is critical to get the latest information on availability before you go. You can get general availability on the website or facebook page. For more specific, you need to call. Remember that a field can get picked from one day to the next.
- Petting animals
- Often many fruits to choose from on one trip
- Big beautiful farm to explore with a wagon. Lots of insects and animals and fields and farm things.
- Easy to get lost and not find what you are looking for.
- Events can be crowded and have loud music which kills the outdoor nature vibe.
- Go for blueberries. The blueberries in 2014 were magnificent! And, I expect them to continue to be. The farmer told me they are about 6 years old and now producing abundantly. They are easy to pick for all ages because fruit grows on the tree at all heights.
- Take a blanket to put in the wagon and be ready to pull the wagon a long distance to the field.
- Take a small container (preferably with a handle) for your toddler. The farm has buckets but they are adult-sized.
- Take the usual water, snacks, change of clothes and potty if you need it.
- Go early in the morning. It is more cool and less crowded. But it could be cold or hot. Be ready.
- Go early in the weekend. Most people go on the weekend. They pick a lot so there is less left to pick. During the week, when there is less picking, the fruit has a chance to grow.
- Have a backup plan or two. It can be a long drive to the farm. Be ready if things don't go as planned. Columbia Farms with U-pick is 7 minutes away. Ask if there are other fruits to pick. Have a picknik by the animals. Shop in the store. Explore.
- In 2014, the farm had Cherries to pick for a week or two. They also have grapes although I have not tried them when they are ripe.
- The farm has mediocre reviews on Yelp. I have read them. I believe the family that owns the farm has a lot to balance between focusing on the PRODUCE of the farm so they can grow great food and sell it to at least break even. they also care about the EXPERIENCE of visitors. Balancing all of this can be hard. I consider myself a guest when I'm on the farm and try to be understanding that it can be hard to get everything right. It's not easy keeping the organic label I'm told. I understand if they have not worked out every wrinkle of the experience for sophisticated visitors like us. It's all part of being on the farm.