By Christy Bassett, The Organic Food Guide Coordinator
This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2018 September Issue Newsletter
Few things are as magical as when you first discover that food actually does grow on trees (… and on bushes, in dirt and amongst leaves). The edge of the New England woods in many of our backyards is home to wild raspberries and thorny tangles of blackberry brambles. I’m sure I’m not the only one who as a child first recognized the familiar fruits from the refrigerator, but took a minute to place them when seen on the vine. When my mom placed one in her mouth, and then told me it was okay for me to do the same, I broke out in a giddy smile, immediately storing the vital information in a part of my brain that was reserved for survival skills. This is where food comes from.
I like to think that my children have a better grasp on the origin of their food supply than I did at their age. They have grown up with green things growing in the garden and family time spent weeding, watering and harvesting. But still, there is something special about visiting a farm with one hundred year old apple trees or multiple fields of blueberry bushes that speaks a little louder to your soul. Each year we make a point to visit our local fruit farm at various times of the year. July is for strawberries, August for blueberries, and September for apples, and of course, October for pumpkins. If we were more prepared, we could catch cherries, raspberries and peaches as well. And perhaps next year will be the year that we will be. (Fingers crossed.)
Kids love farms where they can pick their own fruit. The hustle and bustle of other families herding their own small people to the farm store for berry boxes, bushel bags or wagons loaded with crates adds to the excitement of an experience that only happens once a year. Then there is the searching for the perfect specimen, the picking of several that don’t quite make the cut, and the taste testing of the plumpest, sun-warmed offerings.
I wouldn’t let my children eat just any fruit off the field though. The threat of lingering pesticides or funky fungicide residue has my protective instincts in overdrive. This is why we look for organic farms for pick-your-own experiences. However, it is increasingly difficult to find local farms that grow fruit organically, as disease and pest issues are a major threat to fruit yields in Massachusetts. Being an organic farmer requires an immense amount of knowledge and experience as it is. But organic fruit farmers are really in another league of their own.
At NOFA/Mass, we are proud to be in the company of some of the state’s best organic fruit growers. And lucky for us, they have listed their farms on The Organic Food Guide so that we can find them. If bringing your family to a safe, fun, educational farm is high on your priority list this year, visit www.theorganicfoodguide.org to find an organic farm close to you that offers pick-your-own harvesting. Your children will remember the experience far longer than an afternoon in the sandbox. And you may just get some jam out of it.
The Organic Food Guide is project of NOFA/Mass. Organic and sustainable farms, businesses, restaurants and grocers can list their products for free on the site. Visit www.theorganicfoodguide.org to find out more.