We were outside picking blueberries about a month ago when my husband looked at me and said, “You know, I think we should start a u-pick business. It would save us time picking all of these blueberries and wouldn’t it be nice to make money from our own property?”
My initial response was to look at him like he was nuts. I’ve been ridiculously busy ever since we moved to our new home. It feels like every time I finish one task, I turn around, only to find that the blueberries need picking or the blackberries need picking.
Then I processed it a little further and thought, “Well, okay. Why not?”
So now we are working towards starting our own u pick berries patches. I’m realizing it doesn’t take a ton of room to do this so if you have an acre of land (or maybe less) that you’d like to make a profit from, then you might be interested.
Here is how to start your own U-Pick berries farm:
1. Plant, plant, plant
When we moved to our property we had a blueberry patch, raspberry patch, blackberry patch, a vineyard with white grapes, and a vineyard with muscadines.
Plus, we had an orchard filled with peach and apple trees. I was stoked because I knew I’d have plenty of stuff to can.
But my husband was right. We had an abundance, and it was certainly more than we needed. We began to invite friends over to pick, but we have still been working really hard trying to keep anything from going to waste.
So it may sound weird that we planted more even after having all of that, but we did. The reason is that we didn’t have any strawberry plants, and we had a couple of bare spots in the blueberry patch.
Which led us to add those items. When they take off and fill in, then we’ll have plenty of bushes for our own personal consumption, but also still have plenty for people to pay to pick as well.
So if you are interested in starting a u-pick it patch, then you’ll need to consider which berry plants you’d like to grow and put them in the ground to get the process moving forward.
2. Be Prepared to Work
Next, you need to be prepared to work. Berry patches require weeding and pruning. The property we purchased had been occupied by an older gentleman who wasn’t able to tend to the vegetation anymore.
So we’ve had lots of pruning and weeding to do. You’ll need to do the same or your berry patches will quickly become overgrown.
Actually, I enlist the help of my chickens to help with this process. We will go through and cut out any big vines or briars from our plants, then I allow the chickens to scratch away at any other vegetation at the base of the berry bushes. They’ve done a great job cleaning all of that out for me.
Plus, if you have a pest or bird problem, then you’ll want to apply netting to protect your produce. I can’t explain it, but we don’t have either of these problems right now. The birds leave our berries alone, and the chickens eat the June bugs which are the only real pests that we have.
3. Call Your Insurance Agent
Once you have your plants in the ground, and they are growing nicely and producing it will be time to call your insurance agent. The reason is that you’ll have a bunch of random people on your property. You don’t want anyone who comes to pick end up getting hurt.
Because if they do and you aren’t insured, then you run the risk of losing everything you have. So it is super important that you notify your insurance company of what you’re doing so you can have proper coverage.
Again, I know this is an added expense that you probably don’t want to take on. But if one person gets hurt in the process of picking berries on your property, you’ll sure be glad you had that extra coverage.
4. Create a Welcome Center
If you’ve ever been to a u-pick farm, then you know there is usually this cute little stand where people go to pick up their pails to pick and pay for the experience. You’ll want to have the same thing.
For instance, you might want to put a nice table out that has a canopy over it to keep the sun off of you while you welcome people to your property.
Then you may want to add a cute country style table cloth (like this one) to give your u pick it a certain theme. You have to realize, people are not just paying for the berries. They can go to the grocery store and purchase berries.
But instead, they are paying for the experience.
So you’ll want to be sure that your property looks nice and inviting, and that your welcome stand is every bit as charming because you want to make a great first impression. If people feel at home and happy while picking berries, then they’ll store that in their memory.
Then you stand a great chance of becoming a part of a family tradition where they return year after year. That is what you’re looking for.
5. Fence Off Your Property
Next, you’ll want to consider fencing off your property, or at least the berry patch. The reason is once you begin to advertise, people will know where you live.
Then you could have some people try to come pick when you aren’t home or outside of normal business hours.
So in order to keep from losing any profit, then you may want to consider fencing off your property or at least your patch.
Now, this isn’t a required step, but definitely something you’ll want to consider for the protection of your property and goods that you’re selling.
Here are some ideas for inexpensive fencing.
6. Purchase Supplies
When you’ve got things pretty well rolling, then you’ll need to begin purchasing supplies. The main thing you’ll need to purchase are pails for picking.
But you’ll need a few minor items as well. You’ll want to purchase a scale so you can know how much someone has picked, and a sign to hang out so people will know when you’re open or closed.
Once you have these items, you should be good to go.
7. Pick Ahead
Before you officially open your doors each day, you’ll probably want to go ahead and pick some berries for people that love your berries but don’t have the time to pick them. When you offer this service, people usually pay a little extra for the convenience of it.
Then you can still allow those in a rush to enjoy your product. If you produce a quality product and experience, then the word should travel pretty quickly about what a great place you’re running.
8. See What Else You Can Sell
You’ll also want to consider what else you can sell at this U-pick stand. If you have chickens, then you could consider selling eggs at your welcome center.
If you raise bees, then consider selling honey as well. If you have docile animals, you could consider having a petting zoo and selling feed for the animals as well.
Or if you have excess produce, then you could always put it out there to sell as well. Do you make soap, lotion, or any other all-natural beauty product?
Well, then try to sell that as well. As I mentioned, when people come to a u-pick location, it is usually for the experience.
So if you have any other homemade items or any items made from what they are picking (like jams, jellies, pie filling, etc.) they’ll probably be interested in that as well.
The final step in this process is the marketing aspect. If you have a great product, but no one knows about it, then it doesn’t matter.
Because sadly, if people don’t know, they won’t come, and you’ve put a bunch of work into something for no reason.
So do not let this happen. Instead, market like crazy. Run an ad in your local newspaper to let people know that your u-pick patch is open for business.
Then you could create business cards and post them on local bulletin boards. A lot of feed stores in our area have a community bulletin board where people post things like that.
Not to mention, you may have some people interested in canning that would buy a lot of your product, if you post your information in the right locations.
Also, make signs (or have them made to look more professional) that tell people where you are located, your hours, and what product you have to offer. You could place them all around town, but especially close to your home so people could see them when they are driving through the area.
Finally, once you get people to your location, consider having t-shirts, ball caps, and even bumper stickers made up that are funny so that people will want to purchase them.
But make sure it gives information about where you’re located. If people see a cool looking shirt that says something funny or is eye catching, they’ll want to wear it. They’ll be proud to wear your logo and basically be a walking billboard for your product.
Also, don’t forget about a website. If you have a website, you can register it with pick your own.org. This site will lead others to your web page if they are hunting for a place to pick their own fruits or vegetables.
Then if you have a website filled with information, pictures, and all of your products, they’ll be more likely to visit your location.
So make things easier on your customers. There are even apps out there that will show people of your business if they are within a certain radius, and don't forget Google Maps. A pin dropped there indicating your business will make you easy to find, easy to refer to and shows up in any search by potential customers.
Well, that is how you can start your very own u-pick it patch. And it doesn’t have to be only blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries.
Some people like to come pick their own vegetables. They like to come pick out their pumpkins each year. You could even start a Christmas tree farm (if you have the land) so people can pick out their very own Christmas tree.
As you can tell, the options for this business venture are pretty well limitless. You could spread out your growing to make it work almost year round.
But I’d like to know if any of you have ever started your own u-pick patch? If so, how did you do it? What advice do you have for the new comers?
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