The U-pick season is shorter in the mountains and middle of the state. Here are a few of my favorite spots there, with their entries from my book. Check ’em out! (But of course call or check online before you visit.)
Old Orchard Creek
After former Raleigh residents Walter Clark and Johnny Burleson purchased Christmas tree farmer Dale Shepherd’s 1890s home place near Lansing in 2003, they continued many traditions. One was to renovate the historic house and another was to protect the land by placing conservation easements on the eighty-eight-acre farm. But the one the public is most familiar with is the continuation of the farm’s U-pick berry operation. The 3,200 heritage blueberry bushes at what is now called Old Orchard Creek attract a steady stream of visitors each summer to pick berries. Walter and Johnny have made the farm, which includes an apple and peach orchard, even more inviting by adding covered picnic tables that look out onto the 5,000-foot-high Pond Mountain. 410 Swansie Shepherd Road, Lansing (Ashe County), 336-384-2774, www.oldorchardcreek.com. Open July to August.
Zimmerman’s Berry Farm
In 2000 Pam and Billy Zimmerman turned to U-pick berries to help save their former tobacco farm, set deep in the mountains in central Madison County. It helps that they love to eat them, too. “Before growing them, I never had all the berries I could eat,” Pam said. Picking season on their eighty-five acres (three are for the berries) begins in mid-June with black raspberries and ends around mid-August with red raspberries and blueberries. In between are blackberries and wineberries. From her tiny farm stand, Pam also makes jams, jellies, and syrups from the berries, which she finally gets her fill of every summer. 2260 Revere Road, Marshall (Madison County), 828-656-2056, www.zimmermansberryfarm.com. Open June to August.
Eileen and Ed Haight cashed out of their family orchard in pricey Westchester County, New York, blaming high taxes and a push toward development, and bought an abandoned tobacco farm outside of Reidsville in 1987. When they married in 1961, Eileen was a city girl. “I knew nothing about farming,” she said. That changed fast, and she joined Ed, a sixth-generation fruit grower, in the orchard business. Over the years they’ve added peach trees, and they now have four acres of peaches, five of apples (with ten varieties), and about 100 nectarine trees. The beautifully maintained orchard, situated on rolling hills, is a lovely place to spend an afternoon, and warmer than New York. 2229 Pannel Road, Reidsville (Rockingham County), 336-427-6933, www.haightorchards.com. Open July to September.