American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Produce for the Pickin'
Wherever I travel in this amazingly diverse country, I always try to sample the regional cuisine, locally made goods, and locally grown produce. If I’m in the Florida Keys, I simply must have a slice of key lime pie. I can’t leave New England without gorging myself on lobster at least once. I won’t head to Memphis without satisfying my yen for barbecue ribs. In northern Michigan, I can’t help but purchase some cherry butter or maple syrup, and if I’m visiting southeastern Louisiana in the spring, I make a point of stopping by a particular roadside stand for a few hefty Creole tomatoes, truly the most flavorful tomato I’ve ever tasted.
The bottom line – there’s no way that you can fully know a place without experiencing its local products, produce, and cuisine. Luckily, America is an abundant land, and most regions have something unique to offer, especially in spring, summer, and fall. Weekly farmers’ markets are a particularly good way to find fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as locally made products like salsa, preserves, pickles, salad dressings, artisan bread, cheese, sausage, and the like. But my favorite way to explore local tastes is to visit a pick-your-own (or U-pick) farm, where, for a reasonable fee, you’re guaranteed an interactive experience. Trust me, food seems to taste better when you pick it yourself.
Although America has way too many pick-your-own farms to list them all here, I’ve compiled four of my favorites below:
Nestled in the picturesque countryside northeast of San Diego, the Bates Nut Farm (15954 Woods Valley Rd., Valley Center, 760/749-3333, daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.) has been in operation since 1921, when Gilbert and Beatrice Bates purchased the Walnut Slope Ranch. Five generations later, this family-owned farm welcomes thousands of visitors every year. Some come to shop for nuts, dried fruits, and fudge in the well-stocked country store; some come to participate in annual car shows and art fairs; some even come to see the petting zoo. But the Bates Nut Farm is also a wonderful place to pick a pumpkin from the largest, oldest, and most famous patch in San Diego County.
It’s no wonder that the southwestern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula has long been called the state’s “fruit belt.” Barring unseasonable weather, the fields and orchards literally overflow with everything from corn to peaches. Two long-standing, family-operated U-pick farms lie in the Fennville area: Earl’s Farm Market (1630 Blue Star Hwy., 269/227-2074, daily May-Oct.), where you can pick raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, and Crane Orchards (6054 124th Ave., 269/561-8651, daily June-Oct.), which provides sweet cherries, peaches, and apples. In addition to U-pick produce, Earl’s offers a farmers’ market, a bakery, and an ice cream shop on the premises, while Crane Orchards boasts family-friendly activities like hayrides and a 15-acre corn maze.
A completely unique experience awaits produce-pickers in South Carolina at Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens (1235 Long Point Rd., Mt. Pleasant, 843/884-4371, daily, hours vary), one of America’s oldest working, living plantations, once known for cotton and pecans. Although many visitors flock here to tour the elegant house, historic slave quarters, lovely gardens, and butterfly pavilion, or to attend one of the many concerts, festivals, and events, plenty of folks also come to pick their own peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, and other fruits and vegetables, depending on the season.
Click here for more information about pick-your-own farms throughout the United States – even Alaska and Hawaii. Whether you intend to travel far or stay close to home, remember to contact the individual farms before planning your trip.