Berry picking wasn’t originally on the schedule, not with two ballet recitals ahead of us and costumes to get ready. But there we were at 8:15 a.m., bouncing along in the first wagon of the day at Berry Patch Farms in Brighton. An email from owner Tim Ferrell had warned that the fields were likely to be picked out by 11. We didn’t want to miss it. Neither did several other members from my CSA, who were sharing the early wagon with us. “It’s a tradition,” one Monroe member from Denver told me. Every year she makes strawberry jam, strawberry ice cream and pie — and couldn’t let Monroe’s lost crop stand in her way.
Even with interruptions to watch toads hopping in the row, we quickly picked two overflowing flats, finding clusters of ripe berries hiding under every leaf. Back in the farmhouse they weighed in at 22 pounds, which, at $2.60 a pound wasn’t free (as it essentially would’ve been at our CSA), but it wasn’t nearly as pricey as organic berries at the store.
By 9 a.m., lines were forming for the wagon but the atmosphere was still fun, not frantic. This meant that the owner had time to chat, answering my kids’ questions about how many animals they have and the location of their hives. Mr. Ferrell also told us he’s expanded the strawberry patch to meet demand. This fall, the farm will have seven pickable acres, with more on the way for next year.
On the trip home, we snacked on English peas picked an hour ago and purchased at the Berry Patch farmstand, and enjoyed the scent of ripe, warm berries. Given the rain, we quickly spread the 12 quarts of berries on cookie sheets and let them dry, then switched gears for ballet. Hours later, we popped three trays of berries in the freezer to save for next winter. Then we made strawberry shortcake, our favorite strawberry dessert, to cap off a great performance by our little ballerina.