Manitoba's annual crop of berries-saskatoons, raspberries and strawberries-come of age by late June. That's also when legions of berry lovers hit fields across the province and harvest the sweet, luscious fruit for jams, pies and tarts.
A woman armed with empty pails catches a ride aboard a tractor rumbling down a dirt road.
She's about to join a hunt.
Acres and acres of red, ripe strawberries are ripe for the picking and an army of U-pickers invade the field.
A little further down the road, rows of raspberries are also plump for the picking.
The pickers are on a mission. They methodically scope rows of bushes, pluck juicy scarlet berries and drop the bounty in plastic pails. And then they repeat. And repeat.
Besides hitting the beach, nothing quite screams ‘summertime' like a trip to a U-pick farm.
It's hard work: Bending down in the bushes, picking berry after berry under the sun isn't for everyone. Sticky fingers are also a hazard of the job.
But it's all worth it because those juicy morsels will take a starring role in your pies, preserves, jams and outdoor picnics throughout the summer. (Jams and preserves, meanwhile, can be plucked from your pantry year round.)
In Manitoba, pick-your-own-berry farms and orchards abound. On average, prime berry picking season lasts between three and four weeks in June and July. Take a veteran picker's tip: Always call U-pick farms for hours and conditions before you visit.
And to make the day in the country even better, leave time for family friendly activities at nearby farms, parks and attractions.
Take a sticky fingers berry-picking expedition. Here are some of Manitoba's most popular U-pick farms:
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Mayfair farms in Portage La Prairie, is one of Manitoba's most popular U-pick farms. There are also other family attractions nearby at Island Park. Take a ride down the giant "Splash Attack" or "Funnel Tunnel" waterslide at Splash Island or play a round of golf. And don't miss the pretty arboretum.
Named Manitoba's best farm by CAA magazine, Boonstra Farms doesn't disappoint. Here, there are 25 acres of plump strawberries and four acres of juicy raspberries. As an added bonus: recipes for no-cook strawberry jam come with every U-pick bounty. After you're done filling your pails, take a tour of the farm. Explore the Great Buffalo Rock, bale pyramid and petting zoo complete with a llama, emu and alpaca.
Country Land Farms
Saskatoons, pincherries and wild black cherries await at Country Land Farms - U-Pick / We Pick Berry Farm, a 10 minute drive west of Minnedosa along the picturesque Little Saskatchewan River Valley. Snap-happy photographers will insist on stopping to capture the region's natural beauty. Rolling green hills and fields of sunflowers will instantly transport you to Tuscany or Provence. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles, bears and deer. After you've picked fruit, enjoy a picnic, stroll, bike or hike in the newly developed Millenium Park in Rivers, a nearby town. Stroll down the natural Aspen Trail to the lakeshore.