Posts Tagged ‘great country farms’

Best Berry Picking Farms & Festivals

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the pinnacle of strawberry season here in the DC area, and the foodie tots tend to eat through our weekly market haul of berries well before I get a chance to cook with them. So a trip to the pick-your-own farm is essential for stocking up!

Here are a few favorite places to get out and pick your own berries in Northern Virginia:

strawberry patch at wegmeyer farms

  1. Great Country Farms: Bluemont, Va. (note: GCF charges admission, but is basically a farm adventure land for the kids. Check the website to see about special events.)
  2. Hollin Farms: Delaplane, Va.
  3. Wegmeyer Farms: Hamilton, Va. (see comments below)
  4. Butler’s Orchard: Germantown, Md.
  5. Shlagel Farms: Waldorf, Md.
  6. Westmoreland Berry Farms Oak Grove, Va. (on the Northern Neck, they serve barbecue fare and ice cream/strawberry shortcake in season)

foodie tots at Wegmeyer Farms, Va.

A few things to note for a successful berry picking trip:

  • Go early and ALWAYS call ahead to check picking conditions. The farms around here tend to get picked out quickly on nice summer days, and this weekend is sure to be busy.
  • Dress the kids in dark colors (or red) to avoid stains and wear appropriate footwear (e.g., not the flip flops my toddler refused to change out of. They were new, after all, and a girl can’t be separated from her new shoes.).
  • Bug spray and sunscreen/sun hats are a must.
  • You can’t plop a toddler down in a field of the freshest berries she’s ever seen and not expect her to nibble — so be courteous and round up your tab at check-out to cover any excessive in-field consumption.* And if you hope to have enough leftover for jam, you might want to buy twice what you think you’ll need.

Wegmeyer Farms is an easy under-60-minute drive from Arlington, and we love it for the younger kids in particular. The berry patch is a manageable size (and easy walking distance from parking) for younger kids. There are a couple picnic tables but unlike some of the larger farms (Great Country and Westmoreland have full-service concessions) you’ll have to pack your own lunch. {Update: Wegmeyer has three separate locations this year — Hamilton, Gilberts Corner and at Oaklands Plantation — visit their website for details.}

Hollin Farms is also an easy drive, off of I-66 at exit 23, and grows a variety of crops from berries to peaches, greens and even peanuts. They also practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) — while I’m not aware of any truly organic local pick-your-own farms, IPM farms typically use more natural/less synthetic pest control methods.

foodietots at delaplane strawberry festival

For more than just picking, two popular festivals take place this weekend, May 23 & 24 —

Delaplane Strawberry Festival at Sky Meadows State Park, 10am to 5pm each day. Take a hay-ride, listen to live music, enjoy food and crafts, pony rides, games and more. Find our recap here.

& Great Country Farms Strawberry Jubilee, 9am to 6pm (but strawberry picking only from 9-11am) and next weekend, May 30-31. Features a Diaper Derby for crawling tots, a Strawberry Princess, strawberry shortcake and much more!

If my kids leave any, we’ll be making strawberry shortcake this weekend. You?

virginia grown strawberries

*The foodie tot heard the farmer say, “Go ahead and taste ’em,” and promptly shoveled three in her mouth.

Worm Wednesday: Celebrating Strawberries

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

I’ve lived in Virginia for more than a decade (gulp), and yet I still have trouble thinking of May as strawberry season. Growing up, the grange down the road from our house hosted an enormous strawberry shortcake festival every Father’s Day weekend. On the bright side, Virginia’s accelerated berry season means I get to enjoy my favorite dessert for Mother’s Day — but I still feel a tightening in my chest as Memorial Day approaches and I realize it’s already time to think about preserving strawberries for winter. (My plans? More freezer jam — easy and so heavenly to open up a jar mid-winter and enjoy the scent of fresh berries again.)

strawberries from the garden

We’ve enjoyed a handful of fresh berries from our own garden — the first batch went directly into the boy’s mouth, the second time around there were enough to share one with the baby, too. We still are a long way off from meeting our strawberry consumption demand with entirely home-grown berries, though, so we’ll be back to market and perhaps a farm over the weekend to stock up.

home-grown strawberries

I loved the pictures Fun Mama shared of her adorable toddlers picking berries at Wegmeyer Farms in Loudoun County. (They helpfully advise parents to dress children in red or other stain-appropriate clothes for the outing.) Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Va., hosts their annual Strawberry Jubilee this weekend — but check their website first and get there EARLY as they sell out of berries. (Really!) You can find a pick-your-own farm near you at the PickYourOwn website. Have you gone berry picking with your kids yet this year?

We eat most of our berries straight out of hand before I can do much else with them, but here are some foodie tots-approved strawberry recipes we’ve enjoyed in years past:

(PS I do realize it’s not Wednesday, but yesterday just got away from me. You know how that goes, I’m sure. If you’d like to share a photo of your kids in the garden for a future “Worm Wednesday” post, please e-mail it to, or leave a link to a recent gardening post in the comments.)

CSA Sign Up Season is Here

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

farm stand at PVFRegardless of whether you believe the groundhog’s prediction of an early spring, your local farmers are gearing up for spring plantings. And you can help by signing up for a farm share, or “CSA.” (CSA = community supported agriculture.) If you’ve incorporated a weekly (or more) farmers market trip into your routine, joining a CSA lets you take your relationship with your local farmers to the next level — signing up up front to share in the farm’s produce for the season.

Of course, CSA membership is not for everyone — if you like to have total control over your weekly menu and don’t deal well with surprises, or just can’t bear the thought of getting kale or chard seemingly every single week, you may not be the best candidate for a CSA membership. (Personally, I split the difference — a half share to replenish the produce crisper midweek, but still shop the markets on most weekends.)

If you live in the DC/Northern Virginia area, here are a few well-regarded CSAs you may wish to check out:

  • Potomac Vegetable Farms — Our CSA, they grow “eco-ganic” produce on the last remaining working farm in Fairfax County, just minutes from Tysons Corner, as well as on a larger farm in Loudoun County. They also have an arrangement with Next Step Produce and another local farm to supplement their offerings during the season. (Registration for new members opens Feb. 15, and fills up quickly so act fast!)
  • Food Matters CSA — If you’ve eaten at Food Matters in Alexandria’s West End, you’ve already sampled the producers who supply the restaurant’s CSA. This CSA is technically a buying group, as the restaurant sources the products from a variety of well-vetted local sources. This means more variety for you, including local honey and cheeses. They do not deliver; you’ll need to pick up your share at the restaurant each Saturday.
  • Bull Run Mountain Vegetable Farm — a chemical/pesticide-free farm in The Plains, delivers to Alexandria, Falls Church and DC.
  • Great Country Farms — Great Country offers u-pick and many weekend festivals throughout the year, and a number of options for CSA pickup/delivery (including a monthly payment plan).

inspecting the week's haul

Most of these CSAs require sign-up by the end of February, so if you’re thinking about taking the plunge this year, please act quickly! And if you’re outside the area, check out Local Harvest to find a CSA farm near you.

Any CSA veterans out there? What did you love, or not, about your experience?