There is something about picking your own food that makes it taste better than the food you buy in stores. I have always preferred to grow my own fruits and vegetables, and I recommend you do the same if you are able. The sweet smell of herbs picked after the morning dew, or that giant cucumber that you somehow missed until it was two feet long, create magical stories to tell and memories to keep and pass down from one generation to another. Unfortunately, my family has recently moved to a rental that we will be in for less than a year (military life). There is no time, space, or options for growing my own food. When such is the case, I immediately put my energy into finding the nearest and best U-Pick farms and farmers’ markets.
I really lucked out here in Newport, Rhode Island. My nearest farmers’ market, Aquidneck Growers Market, lasts from June until October and is abound with local growers, bakers, cooks, freshly prepared foods, entertainment and more! It also happens to be less than half a mile from my house. SCORE! Each Wednesday my children and I will be strolling up to Memorial and filling our market bags with freshly picked fruits and vegetables, local meats and cheeses, and the occasional sweet treat.
Even more thrilling is the close proximity of Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, Rhode Island. It is less than a 15 minute drive from my home in Newport and it is everything you could possibly want in a U-Pick farm. The owners, Jan and Michelle Eckhart, have truly turned U-Pick into an art form. Most farms I have frequented in the past were made up of the crop itself and a couple of tents for the owners to huddle under and keep away from the summer harvest heat. Even at the more elaborate U-Pick set ups were you lucky enough to find a permanent outhouse to use.
Not Sweet Berry Farm. Jan and Michelle have taken the business to a whole new level, complete with a post and beam barn you can rent for weddings and other events and a full, permanent, indoor market. The market houses fresh and local fruit and vegetables in every direction and Sweet Berry’s own line of jams and honey from the bees that help pollinate their luscious berries. With a seat-yourself-cafe – tables indoors and out – you can grab any of their copious amounts of pies, cookies, snacks (MANY gluten free offerings included) prepared meals, sandwiches, Susanna’s Ice Cream (made in house) and more all while you enjoy (and purchase to bring home) the bountiful bouquets of flowers held in bushels near the door (um, yes, they also offer catered dishes!).
Alas, I seem to have gotten so caught up in the excitement of all the farm has to offer…I should probably mention what my daughters and I went there to do in the first place…BERRY PICKING!
Sweet Berry Farm offers a wide variety of U-pick fruits and even Christmas trees! They almost always have something in season from June through October. As usual with any pick-your-own farm, please call ahead to see what they have available. Usually for this type of post, I would spent the next several paragraphs giving you pointers on things to know, or bring with you, or what you should do in advance, but Sweet Berry takes care of it all for you. Go straight to the shop and pay in advance before you pick. They provide the baskets for you in various sizes and write the days’ code on the basket. I was a little disappointed when I asked if I could bring my basket back to re-use it and I was told no. I hate to have to waste packaging, even if it is recyclable. Nonetheless, I will probably bring it back and ask again just to be sure.
All of that isn’t enough for you? Sweet Berry Farm also showcases local artisans and live entertainment all summer long. So whether you are in Newport to join the oodles of summer sailors, or viewing the mansions around Bellevue, take a minute and add Sweet Berry Farm to one of your afternoon plans and get the best of what the locals have to offer!
I will be returning very soon for use of the cafe and farmer’s market, not to mention, the peaches will be ready by the end of this week!