I was determined to knock one thing off my summer bucket list over the weekend: strawberry picking.
Although we have some unique you-picks in the area, few of them do strawberries – the only one we know of is Mulberry Lane Farm in Loda (see an old review here). And there’s a very short window for the strawberry season (more on that below).
Besides Mulberry Lane Farm — which has limited hours and availability — our strawberry picking options include: Braffet Berry Farm, about an hour northwest in Carlock; to the south, Just Berries in Stewardson (halfway between Mattoon and Effingham); and Jefferies Orchard in Springfield to the west.
We decided to head to Springfield for a few reasons – 1), the orchard is close to town, making it easy to hit some other sights as I knew we needed a plan B for when picking got tiresome; 2) Interstate 72 is typically empty and has relatively little construction right now; and 3) it reliably had berries to pick. At the time of posting this, the northern farms are still early in their season, and not consistently open.
Jefferies Orchard isn’t a destination unto itself; don’t expect a Curtis Orchard-like experience with entertainment or rides. There’s a very modest store up the road from the strawberry patch itself, where the people are friendly and helpful.
The strawberry patch is up the road a quarter mile. A little stand has strawberry collectors with wooden boxes. There are phone numbers to call if you need more info. Most funny was how impressed my kids were by the free water in the cooler.
Everything is on the honor system here. We took our pallets and went into the field; it didn’t take long to find some luscious berries. The best picker of my bunch? Our 4-year-old, who may have a calling in farming (it runs in their blood on my husband’s side). The nice thing about strawberries is you don’t have to worry about thorns, so even the littlest ones can do it, with supervision and coaching on which ones to pick.
Yes it was hot, and yes there were bugs. (Note to self: get there earlier in the day next time; remember to wear sunscreen AND bug repellent). Strawberries are close to the ground on vines, so be prepared to get low. Wearing long pants isn’t a necessity but some kids might want to crawl around on the
ground to get the reddest ones they can find. We collected a little over five pounds; at $2 per pound, a bargain indeed. Not sure how many of them actually made it home, though; snacking was rampant.
All in all it was a short outing, hence why it was important to have other options for fun if we were driving all that way. Here is a look at visiting Springfield with kids.
There was nothing fancy about this experience but it was certainly successful in our quest to make memories this Memorial Day weekend. There’s something to be said for taking a step back in time and enjoying a simple pleasure.
IF YOU GO:
1016 Jefferies Road
Distance from C-U: Roughly 90 miles. It took us about one hour and 15 minutes.
THE SCOOP: The woman who weighed our berries told us the strawberry season there is coming to a close, rapidly, and recommended that people come out as soon as possible – it may not last until next weekend (June 4). Feel free to call ahead, or check the well-maintained website for updates. The good news is that the orchard will have blueberries (and a short supply of cherries) for you to pick in June and early July.