It didn’t take long for the Albright family to fill their bucket with bright red juicy fruit on opening day of Baugher’s pick-your-own strawberry season in Westminster.
“Stand here and look,” said Susan Albright of Lancaster. “All there is, is red.”
The field was full of fruit Wednesday and through this weekend, with hundreds of people from the region heading to the field to pick the first strawberries of the year.
Lindsey Kress, of Littleton, Pennsylvania, brought her son, Quinn, 4, to help pick on Wednesday afternoon. The family came early in the season this year, to beat the heat.
“It’s the best in the area,” Kress said.
About 248 people came to Baugher’s to pick their own berries on opening day, which fell a little late this year.
“Usually, we’re picking on the 15th,” said Baugher’s manager Cyndy Howes. “It was the cold weather we had. Strawberries need sunshine.”
Even on Wednesday, field guide Jacob Ziegler of Hampstead informed the eager pickers that one section of the 20-acre field was not quite ready yet for picking.
“Be gentle with the plants,” he advised. “If the berry is green or white, leave it.”
Unlike apples, strawberries won’t ripen after they are picked, Howes said.
“You have to pick red berries,” said Howes, who estimated the season would run about four to six weeks.
This season marks the return of a popular tractor ride to the picking field. A large fence surrounds the field to keep out deer and rabbits, so walking is not an option. For the last two years, due to pandemic limitations, pickers had to drive themselves over to the fields and park.
“A lot of people like the wagon ride,” Howes said. “It’s more of an adventure. A nice ride through the farm.”
Pickers are not allowed to bring their own containers. Instead, containers of various sizes are provided and pickers pay before they fill them. According to posted signs, filling a clamshell will get you about 2.2 pounds of berries, at a cost of $11; fill a 4-quart bucket with an estimated 5.5 pounds for $21; or a 6-quart basket with about 12 pounds for $28. There is an entrance fee of $3 per person, with anyone younger than 3 years old admitted for free.
With the opening of strawberry season, the pick-your-own season is in full swing at the farm, with sweet and sour cherries and peas coming later in June, peaches, plums and nectarines ripening in July, and apples starting in September. October is all about pumpkins.
“[The farm is] busy from now ‘til the first of November,” Howes said.
Wednesday was Ziegler’s first time working in the field, having spent his first few weeks on the job getting the market ready, shipping orders and various other tasks. He kept busy throughout the day advising pickers and walking down rows removing rotten berries.
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“There’s been a steady flow of people picking all day, mostly kids,” Ziegler said. “It’s a great activity for families.”
Many people are repeat customers, coming year after year as a family tradition, Howes said.
Christopher Gomez, 5, of Westminster demonstrated the best way to pick berries – get down low on the ground and scan for red.
“We dip them in chocolate,” he said with a smile.
For those who don’t want to pick their own berries, Baugher’s market is open and offers pre-picked berries and other items, such as fruit and vegetables, baked goods and kitchen items.
Before heading to the fields to pick, call Baugher’s hotline at 410-857-0111 to learn about weather and field conditions.