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Where and when to pick your own fruit

For Scott Palka, co-owner of Luna Farms in Newfane, the pleasure of seeing the grins on children’s faces as they take their first bites of freshly picked strawberries never gets old.

This is what picking your own fruit is all about, after all: The satisfaction that comes with spending time with family, learning where your food comes from and how it’s grown. Finding produce that tastes how it’s supposed to — bursting with flavor in a way that isn’t comparable to what you find in the grocery store — becomes its own special experience.

“It sounds weird, but it’s not,” Palka says. “That first ‘wow.’ We get that a lot.”

Palka and fellow owner Julie Eberhart run Luna Farms, located on about 20 acres in Niagara County, 35 miles outside of Buffalo. Much of the farm space is used for bee and insect programs and is not farmed. Their certified organic strawberries peak in early- to mid-June, with nine varieties planned for this spring and summer. Last season was difficult for most of Western New York’s strawberry growers. But Palka and Eberhart say they hope to see families picking strawberries in their fields as soon as the warm May and June sun allows.

Western New York and nearby counties offer a diverse bounty of berry patches and orchards to provide an experience people of all ages can enjoy. From the first plump strawberries in late May to the last apples hanging late into October, there’s always an option when the family loads into the car for a weekend drive exploring the region’s agricultural opportunities.

The wide range of climates in Western New York means peak times for fruit picking can vary greatly. The microclimates in parts of Niagara County sheltered by Lake Ontario, for example, allow for cherry, apple and peach orchards, while the elevated, colder valleys in the Southern Tier may be better suited for heartier berries like blueberries. But you’ll find nearby options of all kinds no matter where you live.

“It’s absolutely a family activity,” Palka adds. “People love to pick because it’s fun.”

Get picking

Because of the fickle nature of weather and harvest, it’s important to always call ahead or check the farm’s website to verify availability. And remember, on any given summer day, a roadside sign may be all that indicates a pick-your-own berry field. Not every farm has a website, or even a listed phone number. Part of the adventure may lie in heading out in the country and following your nose. But never pick a field’s produce unless it’s clearly indicated and open for business.


Strawberries

June

Andolina Farms
10719 Brant-Angola Rd., Brant
716-698-6825

Vacco Farms
1524 Cain Rd., Angola
716-337-2578
Also: Corn, beans, grapes, pumpkins

Bowman Farms, Inc.
11259 Gowanda State Rd., North Collins
716-337-2965;
Also: Corn, tomatoes, squash, other fruits and vegetables

Abers Acres
884 Route 394, Kennedy
716-267-2431
Also: Raspberries, blueberries, currants, peas, beans

Hen-Hawk Acres
13439 Genessee Rd., Chaffee
716-496-5380

Luna Farms
3408 Murphy Rd., Newfane
716-912-7267

Becker Farms
3724 Quaker Rd., Gasport
716-772-2211
Also: Raspberries, blueberries, apples, cherries, pumpkins, plums, winery, brewery, events

Summer Breeze Hydroponic Strawberries
6684 Lamont Rd., Castile
585-322-2689


Blueberries

Mid-July through October

Blueberry Meadows
1414 Rowe Ave., Weston Mills
716-373-2865

Blueberry Ridge
12201 Gowanda State Rd., Lawtons
716-337-2037

Blueberry Treehouse Farm
1897 Davis Rd., West Falls
716-833-8733

Burdick Blueberries, Inc.
8267 Thompson Rd., Cattaraugus
716-257-9760

Childs Blueberry Farm
3172 Cooper Hill Road, Humphrey
716-557-2334

Fenton’s Produce
3323 Pratt Rd., Batavia
585-343-9491
Also: Tomatoes, peppers

Price Family Farm
4598 Porter Center Rd., Lewiston
716-830-1418

South Hill Farms
9419 South Hill Rd., Colden
716-941-5882

Whittier Fruit Farm
7399 Lake Rd. (Route 18), Appleton
585-594-9054
Also: Apples, peaches, cherries at Rochester location


Raspberries

July, September through October

Awald Farms
2195 Shirley Rd., North Collins
716-337-3162
Also: Currants, pumpkin patch, blueberries

Coulter Farms
3871 North Ridge Rd., Lockport
716-434-5335
Also: Strawberries, cherries, sweet corn, market

Great Valley Berry Patch
5608 Humphrey Rd., Great Valley
716-945-5221
Also: Strawberries, blueberries, sweet corn, vegetables

Greg’s U-Pick Farm
9270 Lapp Road, Clarence Center
716-741-4239
Also: Strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins, CSA, market stand

Paul’s Organic Farm
8213 Center Rd., Holland
716-941-6905
Also: Blueberries, blackberries, kiwi fruit and tree fruit

Yerico Farms Pickin Patch
3691 East Main Rd., Fredonia
716-673-1271
Also: Strawberries, blueberries


Cherries

July to mid-August

Bittner Singer Orchards
6620 Lake Rd. (Route 18), Appleton
716-778-7330

Curione Farms
3253 Upper Mountain Rd., Sanborn
716-731-3789

Farmer John’s
350 E. Main St., Fredonia
716-672-2148
Also: Grapes, vegetables

Kappus Farms
6275 Jockey Rd., Burt
716-778-8396
Also: Raspberries, apples, pears, plums, peaches

Lisiecki Produce
8427 Chestnut Ridge Rd., Gasport
716-772-2213
Also: Farm stand

Olde Chautauqua Farms
6645 West Main Rd., Portland
716-792-9440
Also: Asparagus

Walker’s Fruit Farm and Wine Juices
2860 Route 39, Forestville
716-679-1292
Also: Grapes, fruit juices


Apples

Late July through October

Baker Farm Market and U-Pick
2100 Youngstown Lockport Rd., Ransomville
716-791-3440

Blackman Homestead Farm
4472 Thrall Rd., Lockport
716-434-7116

Brant Apple Farm
1355 Brant-North Collins Rd. (Route 249), Irving
716-257-9109

Meadows Farm
10459 Prospect Rd., Forestville
716-965-2674
Also: Apple cider, pumpkins, picked squash, broccoli, cauliflower

Murphy Orchards
2402 McClew Rd., Burt
716-778-7926
Also: Strawberries, currants, cherries, vegetables, pumpkins, rhubarb, asparagus, market stand

Smith’s Orchard Cider Mill
4960 Mapleton Rd., Pendleton
716-625-4316

Stonehill Orchard
2356 Shirley Road, North Collins
716-337-2380

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