Tag Archives: upick

BillyCo Junction Upick

A few weeks ago I had a real hankerin’ for some strawberries. I checked into my regular favorite upick farms, but no one was quite ready yet. So I searched  the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Associate Website for strawberry growers in my area. An lo, and behold, what should I find but a brand new upick farm. Billyco Junction, just east of Lacombe, had just opened for the first time ever. So off we headed to Billyco Junction.

My Experience

For a brand new upick farm, I must say I was very impressed. It seems they are well on their way to a successful upick farm. The first thing I noticed was their lovely yard. Everything was well kept and looking sharp. The same could be said about their fields, which leads me to the second thing I noticed: They have a little bit of everything! Fruits and vegetables galore! Just take a look at their website under ‘Garden Delights’ for a list of all that they have and plan to have – www.billycojunction.com

But on this occasion I was on the hunt for strawberries and Billyco Junction was just the only place I could find at this time of year that had them. In fact, I happened to call on their opening day. I arrived after supper and unfortunately they had already been picked clean by the day’s customers. That was a little disappointing, but certainly understandable since they were the only ones open for the season yet. But I returned a few days later and there was no lack of berries.

Billyco Junction Upick

It didn’t take very long to fill my basket (with the help of my kids). We were picking from newly planted strawberries, so the berries were a little smaller than what you would find on the second year strawberries. They were also planted in plastic mulch and had not yet been mulched with straw, so the berries were a little dirty. However, had I been just a week or two more patient, we could have been picking from the established and straw mulched berries and had larger, cleaner berries. But what can you do when you have a hankerin’ for strawberries before they’re ready? I’ll tell you… You take what you can get.

One things that I appreciate about Billyco Junction is the owners. Bill & Edie Biel are well suited for the upick business – friendly, helpful, and there when you need them! Even on the day when I came late and the berries were gone, Edie kindly took me on a small tour of their operation.

There were just a few things that are currently lacking – and I’m sure as they get a bit of experience under their belt these things will be shortly forthcoming. Parking is one – as we drove into their yard we didn’t really know where we should be parking. A sign or two would be helpful here. The other is washroom facilities. I didn’t inquire, but I didn’t notice any public washroom facilities. But like I said, I’m sure it won’t be long before these things are taken care of.

A Final Word

If you are in the Lacombe area, this is one upick farm to watch. They have already done so many things right and they’ve only been running for less than a month! With a little bit of time and experience, I am confident that Billyco Junction will become a premier upick site. I’ve already been their twice and a couple more trips this season seem to be in order! Check ‘em out for yourself!

Want to Visit Billyco Junction?

Here’s what you need to know:

Location:

East of Lacombe on Highway 12, approximately 8 km to Prentiss Road. Go south on Prentiss Road, approximately 4.4 km. Billyco Junction is on the west side of the road.

Prices:

At  the time of this article, strawberries were $3.00 per lb.

Other Info:

You can visit their website at http://www.billycojunction.com or give them a call at (403) 782-4263.

The Saskaberry Ranch near Olds

The Saskaberry Ranch LogoMy love of fresh fruit has kept me on the trail to experience the many upick farms central Alberta has to offer. Yesterday I found myself at the Saskaberry Ranch west of Olds. This was not the first time I had been there. In fact, I’ve been there dozens of times before. And not just for the fruit (although that is an attractive feature). Most of my visits occur because I’m related to the owners. The Saskaberry Ranch is owned and operated by my brother Phil & his family. (I even had the joy of helping plant many of his saskatoons…) That being said, I’ll do my best to remain unbiased in this review – though I won’t guarantee anything.

My Experience

When I was a kid, I used to pick the wild Saskatoons that grew on the edges of the fields. I could pick for an hour and get only a quarter of an ice-cream pail full of saskatoons. Not so at the Saskaberry Ranch! Yesterday I picked for about 30 to 45 minutes and my pail was right full.

Bucket of Saskatoons

Absolutely fantastic! My son (about a year and a half old) was with me and believe it or not, I could fill my bucket quicker than he could empty it! He doesn’t say many words yet, but he did say “Mmmmm Mmmmm” quite a bit yesterday!

Large Cluster of Saskatoons

But I should mention that there is more to the Saskaberry Ranch than just piles of saskatoons. They also grow raspberries, strawberries, cherries, potatoes, onions, carrots, snow peas, and a whole host of other vegetables. Weather has certainly been an issue this year and both the cherries and raspberries are pretty sparse, but the saskatoons are absolutely amazing!

Sweet Raspberries

One Final Word

The Saskaberry Ranch is the place to go for saskatoons. You’ll find lots of other stuff while you’re there too, but if you’re in the market for saskatoons, I’ve found no better place. And at a mere $2.00 per lb, it’s a great price too.

Want to Visit The Saskaberry Ranch?

Here’s what you need to know:

Location:

They are just west of Highway 22 on Range Road 324, 2.4 km south of Highway 27 or 66 km north of Cochrane.

Produce:

Saskatoons, Raspberries, Strawberries, Potatoes, Assorted Vegetables

Prices:

At the time of this article, $2.00 per lb. for saskatoons, $3.00 per lb for raspberries

Other Info:

You can visit the Saskaberry Ranch online at http://www.saskaberryranch.com or send phil an email at phil@saskaberryranch.com. Additionally, you can call (403) 507-8994 for anything else you need to know.

Prairie Perfect Orchards near Innisfail

This weekend was the annual Summertime Country Drive (a collection of 25 central Alberta farms & attractions). One of the destinations along the way was Prairie Perfect Orchards – a brand new fruit farm featuring cherries, honeyberries, and apples. Although this was just their first year open to the public, they easily win the “Best Presentation Award”. Their grounds are beautifully landscaped and well kept, facilities are clean, there are attractive signs everywhere so you never get lost – and even the grass was weed free!

Prairie Perfect Orchards

My Experience

First impressions were great. As I stated above, everything was beautiful. After we parked we walked towards the main building and were cheerfully greeted by the owners. Although we caught them between seasons (too late for honeyberries, and about a week too early for cherries), they offered us samples of cherry sauce [for ice cream and such], cherry jelly, and a delightful rhubarb beverage. We also got a tour of the apple orchard and the cherry orchard.

Apple Orchard

The apple orchard [pictured above] was not yet in production, but it is expected to come online by 2010. Our host named a half a dozen+ varieties that he was growing – all the best apples that grow in this part of the world. I’ll be interested to check out this orchard again in a couple of years.

Cherry Orchards

The cherry orchard was beautiful – with cherries just dripping off the young plants. There are at least five varieties that I remember – the Romance Series cherries that were recently developed at the University of Saskatchewan. They are just four years old now (I believe) and will be ready for the picking in about a week’s time through to autumn.

A Final Word

Although I’ve never yet picked a single berry at Prairie Perfect Orchards, I certainly plan to. If your looking for cherries in the central Alberta area, this is the place to go. And if you’ve never been to a upick farm before, this would be a great place to be introduced. Their pristine property feels more like a park than a farm and I feel they will only improve with time.

Want to Visit Prairie Perfect Orchards?

Here’s what you need to know:

Location:

From QE#2 take the Cottonwood Road exit (just south of Innisfail), travel west to RR#14, north 2 miles (3.3 kms.) to Twp. Road 354, west 1.8 kms. to the orchard on the north side of the road.

Produce:

Cherries, Honeyberries (and soon apples…)

Prices:

Not sure – I’ll update when I go pick cherries!

Other Info:

You can call (403) 227-1301 or email pjwasylyshyn@hotmail.com for more information


The Jungle Farm Near Innisfail

The Jungle Farm LogoToday was the Strawberry Festival at the Jungle Farm just north of Innisfail. Since that’s right in my neck of the woods, I decided to take the family out and enjoy a few strawberries. The Jungle Farm is the biggest strawberry farm I’ve visited – with about 12 acres of strawberries. However, strawberries aren’t the only thing you’ll find there. They also grow raspberries and a variety of flowers. In their little store you’ll find fresh vegetables, BC fruit and preserves. Their fields are full of all varieties of produce such as lettuce, cucumbers, pumpkins, and even artichokes. They even have a couple of greenhouses in which they they grow bedding plants and such. They are also a part of the Innisfail Growers – a group of five central Alberta farm families who cooperatively market their produce in local farmer’s markets.

My Experience

The Jungle Farm

I’m not sure how busy they are on a regular summer’s day, but today, with the Strawberry Festival going on, there was a quite a number of people there. I counted 28 cars in the parking lot. One of the fellows I talked to brought his family up from Calgary to have the experience of picking berries with his daughters. Now I personally would prefer to pick berries all my myself, but my wife would much rather have the anonymity of being in a large crowds, so she was glad we came on this day.

The strawberries themselves weren’t too bad. Quite a few berries had hail damage from a few weeks ago, so many of them didn’t LOOK their best, but the taste was still just fine. It was easy picking, with several large berries filling our basket in a matter of mere minutes. With 12 acres to choose from, it was easy to find a place that hadn’t yet been picked over.

The Jungle Farm Strawberries

For the Kids

The real story at the Jungle Farm is the attractions for the kids. My son took immediately to the big sand pile that was stocked with a variety of toys. My daughter ran over to the kid-sized wooden train that was right beside the paved tricycle track. My kids loved these attractions much more than they cared to pick strawberries. They were in tears when we had to leave (being past their nap time didn’t help though.)

The Jungle Farm Train

The Jungle Farm Train Tricycle Track

Extended Season

Now I will have to check this out for myself later this fall, but I understand there are activities going on at the Jungle even into the fall. They have a pumpkin patch (great for pictures of the kids), hayrides, a corn maze, a bay maze and more. This is also a great time to pick up some of their famous pickles. But I’ll have to tell you more about that later.

A Final Word

If I’m planning on bringing kids with me next time I pick berries, I’ll certainly go to the Jungle Farm. It’s great to have a place where the kids can have lots of fun (and dad can fill his basket with fruit). I’ve very excited to take the kids to the pumpkin patch this fall and get a few bags of cukes (as I did last year) to make some pickles. So if you AND the kids want to head out to a upick – be sure to check out the Jungle Farm.

Want to Visit the Jungle Farm?

Here’s what you need to know:

Location:

From the Innisfail overpass continue on 6 kms north. On the right-hand side you will see the U-Pick sign for The Jungle and then farther on you will see a sign for “The Old Pole Road”. At this intersection turn left (west) and go 2.5 kms. They are on the right side of the road (north). Park in the lot near the little red barn.

Produce:

Strawberries, raspberries, flowers, cucumbers, pumpkins, lettuce, onions, artichokes, and more.

Prices:

At the time of this article, strawberries were $2.50 per lb.

Other information:

You can check out their website for upcoming events and other important info. http://www.thejunglefarm.com

Red Lodge U-pick Near Bowden

Yesterday I experienced the joy of my first u-pick of the season! I had been anxiously waiting for strawberries, and my poor little strawberry patch was simply to small to keep up with my appetite. That’s why my little girl and I ventured out west of Bowden to Red Lodge U-pick.

Red Lodge U-pick Sign

My Experience

The very first thing I noticed was good signage. Between the highway and the farm there must have been at least four signs – the first on the highway 6 km before the range road. There’s nothing like clear instructions to make a u-pick day more enjoyable.

Upon arrival, we parked our car (in the clearly marked parking area) and were warmly greeted by Gary Thorpe, the owner/operator of Red Lodge U-pick. Gary gave us a basket and took us out to where the ripe strawberries were.

Red Lodge U-pick Strawberry Rows

Gary had nets over the ripe rows to keep the birds from pecking holes in all his berries. (And it’s a good thing too – any unprotected strawberries at my house have been pecked up.) You might think it would be a hassle to have a net over the berries, but the nets were easy to pull aside as we picked.

The plants were covered in berries and it was very easy to fill our basket quite quickly. The strawberries were juicy and very tasty – so much better than anything you buy in a grocery store! My daughter had a great time picking the berries (and an even better time eating them on the way home!)

A delicious strawberry

When we had filled out basket, we returned to the farm entrance and my daughter pressed the ‘the red button’ to page Gary. He appeared from another part of the farm and weighed us out. When all was said and done, we had a basket of strawberries weighing just under 4 lbs. So at $2.55 per lb. we paid our $10 and left with a large basket of strawberries and a very enjoyable experience in our memories.

Basket of Strawberries

A Final Word

Over the past couple of years I’ve been to the Red Lodge U-pick several times now. And I keep going back because I really enjoy the experience. It might not be the largest u-pick in the area, or the fanciest – it might not even be the cheapest. But in my experience, it’s certainly one of the friendliest. And for my family, that’s an extremely valuable asset.

Care to visit Red Lodge U-pick?

Here’s what you need to know:

Location:

Go 3 km west of Red Lodge Provincial Park (or 18 km west of Bowden on highway 587) to range road 31, turn south and go 3 km to the end of the road, turn east and go just 1/3 of a km to the farm. (Just follow the signs – its easy!)

Fruit:

Strawberries, raspberries, and cherries (and Gary is always experimenting with more)

Facilities:

There are bathroom facilities available (though I must admit I didn’t personally check them out).

Contact Info

Updated August 6, 2009

Red Lodge U-pick now has website – www.redlodgeupick.com, and you can get the latest information by calling (403) 224-2425.

New Exciting Things at Alberta Home Gardening

Over the past while, folks have been asking me for a few new features on this site, so I’ve now added two new pages that you can access from the bottom of the right sidebar. These are…

The Site Index

This will list every post on this website, so that it’s easy to find articles you may have missed earlier. Go here to see it.

The Contact Page

Got a question? Need to speak your mind? Just need some human contact? Then visit the ‘Contact Me’ page.

And one other thing…

One of my goals this summer is to visit a lot of u-pick farms. I’ve already tried once, only to be told they were still closed for the season. (How disappointing!) But as the season progresses, I plan to visit many of the u-pick farms in my area. But that’s not all. My plan it to write a series of u-pick farm reviews so that you can have a comprehensive guide to all (or at least many) of the u-picks around Alberta. Unfortunately, I simply won’t be able to visit as many farms as I would like.

Here’s your chance to be a guest blogger!

I’m putting the challenge out to each one of you to visit a u-pick farm, take lots of pictures, and write a review on your experience. When you’re ready to blog, email me (via the new ‘contact me’ page), and I’ll give you instructions on how to get your article posted. So head out to your nearest u-pick, bring along your carmera, and join me in making Alberta’s most comprehensive u-pick guide.

Yup. I’m A Locavore.

Hello. My name is Dave and I’m a locavore. I’ve actually been a locavore for years, but I’ve only just come to realize it. Now in case you aren’t too sure just what a locavore is, read what Wikipedia has to say about it:

A locavore is someone who eats food grown or produced locally or within a certain radius such as 50, 100, or 150 miles. The locavore movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to produce their own food, with the argument that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Local grown food is an environmentally friendly means of obtaining food, since supermarkets that import their food use more fossil fuels and non-renewable resources.

Through out my life, the majority of my food has come from within 50 miles of where I live. Well, actually, more like 50 feet. Growing up on a farm with cows, pigs, chickens, and a large garden – most of our food was home-grown. So even without realizing it, my family and I were all locavores!

Now I realize that not everyone has the luxury of living in the country, and it may be a little harder for you to live off the fruits of your labours – but I think anyone can (any anyone should) be a locavore. It just makes sense. So here are just a few ideas of how you can be a locavore too.

To a certain extent, you can grow your own food. Perhaps not everything or even a large percentage of your food can be grown at home, but you can do something. Even if you have a small yard, you could plant a small Square Foot Garden and perhaps a fruit tree or two. If you live in an apartment with just a balcony, you can still have a variety of container grown plants like strawberries, herbs, carrots, or a multitude of other things. If you’ve never tried it, I guarantee you that home-grown food always tastes better!

Another way to eat local is to shop at your local Farmer’s Market. Alberta has a fantastic selection of Farmer’s Markets. From big cities to small towns, you can find fresh, locally grown produce all over the province. Not only do you support your local farmers, but you also end up with a superior product.

And one other option that you’ll certainly want to explore is your local u-pick farm. I am a big fan of being able to pick what I eat right off the tree/vine/bush. U-pick’s are a great place to take the family out for a leisurely afternoon to enjoy quality time together as well as to enjoy great tasting, locally-grown food.

So why not become a locavore? It’s easy, it’s tasty, and it’s even good for the environment!