This article first appeared in Kidsburgh.org, a media partner of NEXTpittsburgh that focuses on making Pittsburgh a better place to raise kids.
Visiting Pittsburgh farms to harvest buckets of strawberries and blueberries has become a family tradition that transcends generations. That fresh-air activity ended abruptly last season, as many families followed safety protocols that kept them at home. With Covid restrictions being lifted, pick-your-own has returned with a few new rules, but plenty of fun.
Farmers remind visitors that dates and times are subject to weather and fruit availability. Call ahead or check websites before strapping the kids into their car seats to ensure a happy outing.
1. Simmons Farm
You can pick the rainbow at Simmons Farm, where pick-your-own crops cover the season with strawberries, peaches, apples and pumpkins. Strawberries are just getting ready to pick beginning on June 9. Tentative hours are 9 a.m.-noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with evening hours from 5-8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Weekend picking runs from 10 a.m.-noon. Always call ahead to prevent disappointment at 724-941-1490. A free hayride will carry you and your little ones to the fields.
As the growing season progresses, Simmons offers a more unusual feature: pick-your-own flowers, from sunflowers to wildflowers. For a flat rate, kids are given a bucket and scissors to fill with as many stems as they can fit. Midsummer, look for aromatic peach picking, followed by crunchy ripe apples by September.
Bring a picnic lunch and make a family day trip of your farm outing. Kids will love the free petting zoo that’s open during market hours.
2. Triple B Farms
Strawberry picking at Triple B Farms runs from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. daily, weather permitting. The rainy and erratic temperatures of May mean strawberries have been slow to ripen. That’s good news for busy families wanting to get to the fields. Triple B usually manages a three-week picking season but check the status of the field on its Facebook page before heading out. Raspberries should be ripe for picking around June 25, followed by blueberries on July 1. Reach for plump peaches in late summer and apples by September.
Purchase wristbands ($7, free for ages 2 and younger) in advance to access Pop’s FunYard, which is open from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Visit the Bee Barn, where a Plexiglas window allows visual access to the inner workings of a beehive. The entire family acts as game pieces in a giant farm-themed board game. You’ll find hillside tunnels and tube slides named after the Liberty and Squirrel Hill tunnels. The Rompin’ Rope Maze helps burn off energy. And everyone loves the farm animals, including pygmy goats, chickens, rabbits and a potbellied pig.
3. Trax Farms
So far, Trax Farms in Finleyville has offered daily strawberry picking from 8 a.m.-noon, depending on weather and fruit availability. Decisions on opening the fields to pickers are made day-to-day. Before heading out, call 412-835-3246 or check the Trax website and Facebook page for more updates and announcements, such as the opening of the 2 acres of blueberry picking later this month. Watch the calendar for other events throughout the season.
The property offers interest for grown-up shoppers with its Antique Loft, indoor and outdoor nursery, top-notch produce market, bakery, wine shop and gift shop. Kids are not forgotten here — the children’s selection of books, decorations, and other items is outstanding.
4. Snyder’s Berry Farm
At Snyder’s Berry Farm pick-your-own is all about the berries. The Chicora farm, located 6 miles north of Butler, grows 10-acres worth of raspberries, blackberries, concord grapes and elderberries, plus black, red and even yellow raspberries. Local breweries and wineries clamor for the fruit, but Snyder’s welcomes families to the fields to fill their buckets.
Bring containers for pick-your-own and stop at the porch to get them weighed before you head to the field. There are no bells, no whistles, no credit cards. Check Snyder’s Facebook page for daily times and updates on produce availability and berry-picking reservations.
5. Soergel Orchards
Soergel Orchards’ pick-your-own farm visits started about 30 years ago. After last year’s hiatus, the Soergel family is excited to welcome little pickers back to the Wexford strawberry fields from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on June 12. The rain date is June 13. Fingers crossed for blueberry picking in July!
Tiny Town and the petting zoo will be open for extra farm fun. Feeling snacky? You can enjoy pre-packaged strawberry desserts and other treats on the MacIntosh Hall porch. The ice cream window will be open, too.
There are a few new rules this year. No outside containers will be allowed. You will purchase containers on the way in at $4 for a pint and $6 for a quart. Social distancing will be encouraged. Masks are required for those who are not vaccinated. Note that once the lots are full, capacity will be reached. But the lots are expected to reopen throughout the day.
6. Norman’s Orchard
The Norman family started production at their farm in 1958, eventually specializing in the heirloom fruit for which Norman’s Orchard is known. Even though the Frazier Township farm lacks kid-focused attractions, families flock to Norman’s for its unique specialty fruit that can’t found in stores.
June is the month for both sweet cherries and tart cherries, which are rare in this region and only available for about two weeks. Blueberries begin their season, too, running through the end of July. Pears – seckel, Lincoln, Anjou, Bosc, among others – ripen for picking mid-August through September. The many unusual varieties of apples – more than two dozen — are available at varying times from August through October.
Norman’s is the only local pick-your-own farm that offers grapes (from mid-August to early September). Watch for fuzzy, juicy peaches next month. Check the season chart for availability and call ahead at 724-224-9491. The farm operates on a cash-only basis.