Berry bliss at Afton Apple: Parents offer tips on strawberry picking with children
Under the shade of a wide-brimmed cotton hat Robbi Stumne intently went about her work, crouching to the ground and digging beneath green leaves to find bright red strawberries. The 7-year-old placed handful after handful of berries in her cardboard tray, rarely stopping to sample the sun-warmed fruit.
Several rows away in the Afton Apple Orchard strawberry patch, 20-month-old Soraya Andrie-Her was content to just move the berries her parents Lue and Melissa had picked from one tray to another, so long as she could amply sample the berries.
The families, with kids of different ages, showed how to pull off a blissful berry-picking expedition with children as helpers. Parents said that with a bit of preparation and good planning, introducing kids to strawberry picking can be enjoyable.
“Don’t rush it,” Melissa Andrie-Her advised. “Let them go at their own pace.”
Afton Apple co-owner Cindy Femling suggests having children carry their own pint-sized plastic container into the patch. They can fill it quickly and then add their small bounty to their parents’ berries and start again.
“That keeps them busy,” Femling said. “They can see the reward right away.”
Some amount of pre-paid tasting is irresistible to most young pickers, but Femling said they ask that parents keep their children close by, avoid letting them run through the patch and keep the sampling to a minimum.
“Just try to make it fun,” she said.
Midmorning can be a good time to visit the berry patch, but Femling said they also see families arrive early in the morning and when there are evening picking hours.
Melissa Andrie-Her laughed when asked about the best time of day to take kids picking: “Whenever your kid is most happy.”
Jeannie Stumne of south Minneapolis said she prepped daughter Robbi the night before their outing. They talked about what they would be doing and watched a video on Afton Apple’s website.
Stumne said she wanted her daughter to understand berries don’t just appear in a grocery store.
“It’s a good opportunity to get out and let her see where food comes from,” she said.
Her daughter enjoyed the fruit: “It’s good to eat,” Robbi said while biting into a juicy berry.
Berry picking can be more enjoyable if you pack sunscreen, bug spray and water, and go when the weather is tolerable. And as her toddler’s shirt could attest, Melissa Andrie-Her offered a bit of clothing advice to would-be pickers: “Wear clothes that you don’t mind if they get stained.”
Berry fans should have four to five weeks of picking, provided Mother Nature cooperates, Femling said. The season started well. There were a couple of nights of frost a few weeks ago, but that threat was thwarted with water irrigation to keep the fruit from freezing, Femling said.
“We’ve got a really good crop,” she said.
If you go:
Afton Apple Orchard offers strawberry picking nearly daily into early or mid-July, depending on the weather and the berry crop. The orchard also sells hot dogs, beverages and strawberry treats, and has shaded picnic tables and a petting zoo. People are advised to call before visiting because hours can change. For more information, call 651-436-8385. The orchard is at 14421 90th St., Hastings. It’s online at www.aftonapple.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AftonAppleOrchard.