With the recent winter storm, I expected one of our favorite spring activities – berry picking – to pretty much be cancelled this year. Farmers seemed like they expected the same, quickly posting that their crops were uncertain. When Third Day Farm & Ranch in Jasper (is Jasper still southeast Texas? Or is that just east Texas/Piney Woods? Meh) posted that they had strawberries available for their annual U-pick season, we couldn’t get there fast enough!
Well, that’s not quite true. We live just west of Beaumont, so Jasper is about an hour and a half from us. But berry season is my absolute favorite season, and we’ve never actually picked strawberries before unless you count H-E-B’s vast produce section, and I appear to be living on a constant high of new adventures, so we set a plan with some friends to arrive around 9 a.m. and off we went! (It should be noted that 2/3 of us are not morning people. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but eventually we were on the road and only running about half an hour behind schedule, so win-win).
Third Day posted frequent updates to their Facebook page about the status of their strawberry crop after the winter storm, and some days it seemed like there was no crop to be had at all. They finally announced that they WOULD be opening this year for their regular U-pick season, but only on certain days because the arctic front had cost them about 1/2 of their normal crop. Needless to say, I was expecting a pretty scant harvest. I figured that we would be lucky to get about 5 pounds, that the kids would tire easily and be bored with having to hunt for ripe berries, or that the field would be so small that we’d zip through it in no time.
NONE of that was true.
Strawberry fields as far as the eye could see. Plenty of ripe, red berries. We parked by one field but chose to pick in another field that was a short distance away, and it wasn’t until we were leaving that the staff told us there were more fields behind the stand.
I have a tendency to go into things with my kids with low, low, low expectations. Having been burned before by plenty a toddler mood swing, I know that more often than not, they don’t react how you expect or hoped for. I hope for the best, but mentally prepare for the worst. We grabbed baskets (provided by the farm) and set off picking, and y’all – these children were all over those strawberries like it was real life Pokemon Go and they had to catch em all.
We picked for over an hour, which is about thirty minutes worth of strawberries more than I actually wanted, but trying to get these kids out of the strawberry fields was like herding cats. At one point, they were even chanting, “no strawberries left behind!”
All in all, we came home with over 25 pounds of strawberries. These kids have no chill.
The entire thing was incredibly socially distanced, with baskets being available at the farm stand as soon as you drive out and then you just head straight into the field to get your pick on. At the end, you return to the farm stand where your berries are weighed and bagged. The stand also offers local honey, fresh yard eggs, homemade beef jerky, as well as a variety of plants (and probably more!) The farm stand is cash or check only. No cards, so come prepared! There are portable restrooms available on site. They also have a cute little area off to the side of the stand available for photo ops. They saw me coming.
Things to bring:
- mud/rain boots. It was dry when we were there, but there were lots of ant piles that were easy to disturb and the boots kept the kids from getting bit. We’re loving these lately – completely waterproof inside and out!
- cash or check ONLY. They do not accept cards.
- a cooler or insulated tote to bring your harvest home!
- Since you’re already in the area, Martin Dies, Jr. State Park is the perfect place to picnic – so pack a lunch if you want something other than fast food! (More on Martin Dies, Jr. State Park soon!)
Quick note that I may earn a small commission from any sales from links contained in this post!
Third Day Farm & Ranch uses their Facebook page to communicate with visitors. Schedules often change daily. Be sure to check their page before visiting, and remember to be kind to the farmers who are doing their best to provide any kind of crop at all this year!
So – what on earth are we going to do with 25-plus pounds of strawberries?! You’ll have to wait and see! Do you have a favorite strawberry recipe? I’d love to hear about it!