Modern-day blueberry farming began in Michigan in the early 1900s, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD), and today this perennial crop is harvested from more than 20,000 acres. (Photos via Shutterstock)
Modern-day blueberry farming began in Michigan in the early 1900s, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD), and today this perennial crop is harvested from more than 20,000 acres. (Photos via Shutterstock)

What better place to socially distance this summer than a big, open field full of fresh fruit and veg ripe for the picking? Here’s where to find farms in your area. 

MICHIGAN — Did you know that Michigan is one of the top producing states in blueberries, with state blueberry farmers producing more than 100 million pounds in an average year? That’s according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), who also say Michigan blueberries are grown, harvested, packed, and processed by 575 family farms annually, contributing nearly $132 million to the state’s economy.

There’s no shortage of the summer crop in the state, and you can get into the fields and in on the fun at the 239 U-Pick farms in operation around Michigan. Strawberry season may be over, but blueberries, blackberries, peaches, peppers, raspberries, tomatoes, and more are perfect for picking this August. (And apple season is just around the corner!) 

A ‘Crazy Year’ for U-Pick 

Michigan farmers were worried in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic that disruptions in business would mean U-Pick crops would go to waste this summer, reports Michigan Farm News

But when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order in May allowing U-Pick operations to reopen to the public, eager fruit- and veg-pickers came flocking to Michigan farms. 

“It’s been a crazy year, to say the least,” farmer Bill Whittaker told Michigan Farm News. He co-owns Whittaker’s Berry Farm with his wife, Marilyn — 19 acres in Ida of beautiful Honeoye and Allstar strawberries, excellent for freezing, canning, jams, jellies, and just eating fresh.  

Whittaker told Michigan Farm News that the berry farm would have incurred a six-figure financial hit if stay-at-home orders had extended into early June.

There are 238 other U-Pick farms in the state that generate millions in revenue annually, according to the Michigan Agritourism Association. Janice Benson, executive director of the group, said the ability to interact and “share the food they grow with the public is something that farmers love, but it’s also a big source of their income,” according to the Detroit News

RELATED: Federal Aid Isn’t Reaching Michigan Farmers. Here’s What They Need to Survive.

U-Pick Guidance for the Pandemic

MDARD is offering guidance to U-Pick operations to ensure farmers’ ability to keep that vital source of income flowing while prioritizing customers’ safety during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Under Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders, U-Pick operations must have a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan readily available to employees and customers in addition to providing and requiring the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers. 

Managers of U-Pick operations should have communications material on hand for customers (e.g., signs or pamphlets) to inform of changes to store practices and to explain the precautions they’re taking to prevent infection. But family units are universally encouraged to stay together and six feet apart from others, and customers should only be accompanied with family members and should limit the numbers in their groups. Find more U-Pick guidance from MDARD here.

Find U-Pick Farms in Your Area 🍓🧺

You can find U-Pick operations in your region of the state via pickyourown.org. Simply select your region of the state below and find a list of farms in your area you can visit now to get the freshest, most discerningly picked produce possible. 

Michigan U-Pick Farms and Orchards: 

Southwest Michigan

Southeast Michigan

Central-West Michigan

Central-East Michigan

Northwest Michigan

Northeast Michigan

Upper Peninsula

You can also visit pickyourown.org for general picking tips and information on yields, everything about home canning, freezing and making jams, pickles, sauces, etc., crop availability calendars, and much more to answer all your questions about picking and preparing your own produce.