President’s Letter: Our 2018 Pick-Your-Own Policy

Many of our customers are counting the days until June 6, when we’re estimating that strawberries—our first crop of the season— will be ripe and ready to pick. Whether you are coming from a distance or live right around the corner, pick-your-own is a big event. You clear your schedule and grab water bottles and sunscreen. You gather your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. Maybe you even get a group together to make a day of it here.

You enjoy the hours spent in nature, hearing birdsong, enjoying a mix of work and fun as you hand-select fruit you will later enjoy. You feel connected to the source of your food, getting to know your farmers and seeing the land where this food is grown. It’s a wonderful experience to come pick your own fruit.

Unlimited strawberries for the baby!

Behind every good pick-your-own experience is a team of dedicated people working long hours in all weather to care for the land, cultivate many delicate crops, and keep the picking areas clean and well-maintained. I am grateful to my son Justin, long-time Weaver’s manager David Howe, and many others for their hard work behind the scenes.

The staff you interact with during pick-your-own are also crucial to making every experience pleasant and meaningful—whether it’s our office staff answering questions by phone or online, the parking attendants directing you to the lot closest to the fruit you wish to pick, or the staff in the pick-your-own shed walking you through the pick-your-own process and sharing their knowledge of farming and produce. I am especially appreciative when I hear that pick-your-own staff has offered a golf cart ride to any customer who needs help getting out to the fields.

We hire and train our staff carefully because we believe that pick-your-own is about more than just harvesting fruit. It’s also about community and making sure each customer is welcomed and supported. We want every visit to Weaver’s Orchard to be one of your absolute favorite days of the summer or fall.

For every farm that chooses to open for pick-your-own, there is a cost to offering this experience. In addition to staff, pick-your-own farms have to factor in the expense of insurance, signage, and extra driveways and pathways, as well as the loss involved in dedicating land to parking instead of farming. It is often a challenge to figure out the best ways to cover those costs.

Last year, we implemented a wristband policy, requiring everyone who enters the pick-your-own areas to wear a wristband. This allows us to identify people who are in pick-your-own areas as paying pick-your-own customers. This leads to greater security for us and for you, ensuring that everyone who is on the property is accounted for. It is also a way for us to keep overall costs down by ensuring that everyone is paying for the fruit they pick.

This year, we have decided to make these wristbands free Monday through Thursday, for every crop—no loyalty card required. We want to encourage you to come Monday through Thursday if you can. That way, you can avoid the weekend rush and make good use of the top quality fruit that we reserve for our pick-your-own customers every day. The fruit ripens just as fast during those days! When we open up on Mondays after being closed Sunday, the fruit is especially abundant and we encourage you to take advantage of both the abundant fruit and the free wristbands.

We have also decided to make the wristbands free for children five years and under who are accompanied by a paying parent or legal guardian. We want families to be able to introduce their children to the joy of picking fruit. It is our hope that making the wristbands free for children five and under (rather than two and under as we originally stated) will make the experience accessible to more families.

On Fridays, Saturdays and holidays, the wristband will cost $2 per person (6 years old and up). These are our busiest days, requiring us to double our staff. The holidays that affect pick-your-own are Independence Day and Labor Day. Pick-your-own is open until 3 pm those days (the last admission is at 2 p.m.).

We will continue to offer our Frequent PYO Customer Discount program, which customers may join for $10 to get 10% off every pick-your-own purchase throughout the season. (Most customers find this card pays for itself within the first two visits.)

We have decided not to implement a price increase for strawberries this year. We will evaluate other crops as we get closer to harvest.

The costs of providing the pick-your-own experience increase for us every year. It’s always a challenge to figure out how to meet these costs while continuing to offer the fun, safe, rewarding experience of pick-your-own that you count on from us.

We know that supporting the farms in your community is a huge reason that you are looking forward to the start of pick-your-own and that you shop at our market. We are honored and grateful that our orchard has had such faithful customers over the past 85 years. We believe this new policy will help us continue to cultivate the highest quality produce, care for the land, and provide a way for you to keep coming to see for yourself what farming is all about.

We are encouraged that although it has been a late spring, all crops are looking good for this season, although apricots and some plums will be light crop. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are setting up a very nice crop. Sweet and sour cherries look good overall at this point, with some varieties heavier than others. Apples, peaches, and pears look very promising with great potential for a full crop. We are excited about our new tree fruit pick-your-own area on the south side of Weaver Road, which debuted last year and will have increased production this year in peaches, pears and apples. We hope you can join us in the orchard and market for a wonderful 2018 harvest season.

 

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