Early summer means strawberries, and Champaign-Urbana friends are in luck: we’ve dug up several strawberry farms within roughly an hour’s drive from Champaign-Urbana where you can pick your own strawberries.
WARNING: The season is short for traditional berries, so if you blink you might miss it. (New: see a non-traditional option late summer!)
To be sure that there are berries ripe for the picking, we recommend that you call ahead before you go to any farm (some also put up information on their Facebook pages and/or websites).
Lucky for us, even in the crazy spring of 2020 we are able to enjoy the simple things – like picking strawberries; an excellent social distancing activity. Bring your face masks, please – several places won’t let you in without one.
Oh, and a few other tips:
1) Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen; sunglasses and hats are also helpful. Remember, there is no shade while berry picking. As for shoes, rain boots are a good option – or something else that you don’t mind getting dirty or muddy.
2) Where there is fruit there is often bugs. Go early as possible; be prepared to do sunscreen and bug repellent.
3) In past years, we recommended that you bring cash to pay. This year, most places have options for credit.
4) Watch the weather. You don’t want to be picking with any threats of lightning.
5) Remember, berry season is short!
U-Pick Strawberry Locations Near Champaign-Urbana (organized by distance)
Mariah’s Mums & More, Clinton
This is a new addition to our guide – experience pick your own (PYO) strawberries “like never before” with this vertical, hydroponic growing system. This way of growing allows you to pick standing up and not on the ground. “Hand-select what you bring home while making memories and enjoying a one-of-a-kind AG-venture. Bring the whole family out for a fun filled morning at the farm!”
Location: They recommend using the directions on the website. About 40 minutes from Champaign. Not far from Clinton Lake.
Notes: Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. – Noon or until they are picked out for the day, from mid-July until mid-September. They recommend arriving before noon. Strawberries are $4 per pound. Cash preferred, they also accept local checks, and Visa, Mastercard, & Discover.
Strawberry Acres, Danville
This locally owned family farm typically has the earliest of the area strawberry farm seasons. Posts regular updates on its Facebook page.
Location: Northeast Danville. Address: 515 Poland Rd, Danville (1 hour from Southwest Champaign)
Notes: This year, children under 6 will not be allowed in the field. Closed on Sundays. Has other crops all season long, including pumpkins in the fall.
Phone: (217) 443-3027
Braffet Berry Farm, Carlock
The season at Braffet generally starts right before Memorial Day and lasts about four weeks. In 2020, due to the late frost, berries will probably not ready until early June, according to its website.
Location: Carlock, Illinois, which is northwest of Bloomington-Normal (on the way to Peoria). (1 hour, 5 minutes from Southwest Champaign). Directions: https://goo.gl/maps/sbLUZzVqcpC2
Notes: Open 7 days a week during picking season. Only takes cash or checks. Posts regular updates on its Facebook page.
Jeffries Orchard, Springfield
Our family went to Jeffries Orchard in Springfield a few years ago, and you can read all about this no-frills experience on the website. Typically opens for u pick in mid-May, but like others this year, the 2020 season will be later than usual due to cooler temperatures. They have a roadside stand and sell produce all summer long. Note: it is unclear if Jeffries Orchard will offer u-pick in 2020 – in mid-May, the farm posted “stay tuned.”
Location: A great advantage for this place: it is close to Springfield and therefore close to other attractions, food, etc. About 75 minutes from southwest Champaign.
Notes: Open 7 days a week. Takes credit cards. Posts regular updates on its Facebook page. Also has blueberry and peaches on site, but season is much later in the summer.
Just Berries, Stewardson, Illinois
Typically open for picking around Memorial Day in the last week of May. Strawberry season usually lasts about a month. (In 2020, they are predicting the end of May; picking will be allowed but with some adjustments.)
Location: About 75 minutes from southwest Champaign, straight south between Mattoon and Effingham.
Notes: Open 7 days a week during picking season. Posts regular updates on its Facebook page. Also has blueberries and blackberries on site, but season is much later in the summer.
Did we miss your favorite strawberry u-pick? Let us know.