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May 19, 2013

You-pick-it farms a popular summer stop

Scott Beck can’t wait for the messiness to begin.

Scott Beck can’t wait for the messiness to begin.

That’s what happens during the you-pick-it season at Beck’s Farm in Newton, when some of the crop never makes it out of the orchard.

“A little child can pick his own peach and bite into it and it’ll run down his chin and get sticky, and he gets a smile on his face that lasts all day,” Beck said.

Beck’s is one of several farms and orchards in the area that allow customers to pick their own peaches, berries and other fresh produce.

Beck sounded confident that his farm will have plenty of peaches despite this spring’s cold snap. Other peach growers were more cautious, and all advised calling to see what’s available before venturing out to an orchard or farm. Some are cash only, so go prepared.

Here’s a look at some area you-pick-it operations:

Beck’s Farm, 7620 S. Anderson Road, Newton, 316-282-2325 – There are dozens of varieties among the thousands of peach trees planted at Beck’s. The farm expects to have peaches available from early June through September, starting with varieties such as the Early Redhaven and ending with one called the Encore.

“The early peaches are smaller in size and a little bit clingy,” Beck said. “They’re not the ones the ladies like as well for canning, but on the other hand, they’re a little sweeter and maybe a little juicier.”

Directions: Take I-135 to exit 25, go west 1.5 miles and south 0.5 mile, following the signs.

Blackberry Heaven, 1870 S.W. Santa Fe Lake Road, Towanda, 316-541-2729 – Blackberry season starts about the middle of July and continues for about six weeks, owner Ginger Johnson said. Johnson also put in blueberries two years ago and thinks she might have a crop of them this year as well.

Johnson said she’s lost only a blackberry crop in 14 years. Regular customers put the berries in cobblers and jams or just enjoy them over cereal.

“Anything you can do with fruit you can do with blackberries,” she said. “They’re very versatile, and they’re very high in antioxidants. They come in just below your blueberries.”

Elderslie Farm, 3501 E. 101st St. North, Valley Center, 316-680-2637 – George Elder thinks his blackberry season will begin in mid- to late June and continue about three weeks.

“If the weather is cool, that could stretch it out a bit, which would be great,” Elder said.

Regier Orchard, Meadowlark Road, Whitewater, 316-799-2025 – Shari Regier says her peaches are “in question,” but the outlook for apples, plums and cherries is good. Cherries usually ripen in mid-June but may be a little later this year. Peaches, if they make it, will probably arrive about the beginning of July. Apples make their appearance in September.

Offering U-Pick-It since the early 1980s, Regier said she’s seen some regular customers get too old for the job, only to be replaced by younger ones.

“A lot of people do it just for the experience. They bring their kids and want to have an outing in the country, I guess you’d say.”

Directions: Take I-135 to exit 25, go east past Whitewater to the blinking light at Meadowlark Road, turn north and go about 4 miles.

Sargeant’s Berry Farm, 9836 S. Hydraulic, Haysville, 316-788-1370 – The peaches at Sargeant’s are iffy. Strawberries look good but will probably be delayed from being ready in mid-May, as is usual, to June. Sargeant’s also offers cherries and blackberries for picking.

Steffen Orchard, 1345 W. 90th Ave. N., Conway Springs, 620-456-2706 – Steffen’s owners weren’t sure about their 60 acres of you-pick peaches; if they do make it, they’ll be ready in July and August. They expect their 20 acres of you-pick apples to be fine and ready starting in late August and running through October.

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