Consternation in the You-Pick Field

It’s high season at our blueberry farm.  Each morning, the yard fills with cars (at 7:00 a.m. – aargh) and eager blueberry pickers hit our four acres of Northern Highbush berries. No late freezes, lots of hard work by our honey bees, and good rainfall have added up to a blockbuster crop.  Certainly helps with the mortgage.

Running a you-pick ( U-Pick makes me itch) farm is an …interesting experience.  Upside – you do the picking, we weigh the buckets, we take the money – $2.40/lb + tax. Very reasonable for big, fat berries. Our average sale is right around 10 lbs.  I’d (theoretically) invite 90% of our customers to stick around for dinner – they’re that nice.  Downside, besides hot, grumpy children, bee stings, and porta-potties: some people literally eat their way across the field.  We absolutely expect pickers to taste a few as they go.  That’s part of the you-pick experience.  But I have witnessed some remarkable acts of blatant face-stuffing.  Kids, I can kind of understand, but adults? I mean, do you eat your way through the produce section of the grocery store? The truly noble customer recognizes this and offers an extra dollar or two (“Gosh, I may have eaten a lot”).  But the clueless #%$& who eats with both hands for an hour and then pays for a pound makes us a bit queasy. We get reports all the time from concerned customers i.e. “See that guy in the brown hat? He’s eating more than he’s picking.” One incident that comes to mind is a lady that completely denuded a 6′ plant; encouraging her daughter to eat the whole time, and then paid for less than a pound.

We try not to sweat it – maybe it’s a compliment as to how good our blueberries are – but it still puzzles me. What am I missing here? Why is this acceptable?  Taking a tip from another local farm, we put out a jar near the register last week.  They call it a “sin jar” but that’s a little too judgmental for us.  We call it “munch money” and note that the contents of the jar goes to our local woefully-underfunded animal rescue and shelter. We make a donation yearly anyway; now it’s more fun (and satisfying), served up as a gentle nudge  – we raised $120 for the shelter over the 4th of July weekend alone!


3 thoughts on “Consternation in the You-Pick Field”

  1. Blueberries are $1.99 a pint (about 12 oz) at our local grocery store, that’s about $2.70 a pound.
    Work in a sweltering heat to save 30 cents a pound?
    People don’t come to your farm for that, they come for the experience and yes that experience includes stuffing their faces with berries with both hands.

    My favorite berry farm added $5/person minimum requirement for pick-your-own customers. Not that they enforce that, but after they posted it I noticed we never leave with less with $20 worth of produce for two of us and so do many of the people who check out same time as we do.
    Berries are not that cheap at PYO farms so the cost of half a pound of berries I may or may not eat in the process is definitely covered by the price.

  2. I’d imagine that the consolation would be the satisfaction in knowing that anyone eating that many blueberries is bound to have some sort of digestive upset. 😉

  3. Yep, we’ve thought about a minimum. I don’t think our pickers are that into price comparison, they seem more interested in quality and “no sprays used.” Never any complaints about the price. Elizabeth, I have personally eaten a ridiculous amount of berries with no upsets. The blue pigments tend to tint… well, nevermind.

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