People pick strawberries for many reasons, and for 77-year-old James Ward of Portland, it brought back a flood of memories.
“I haven’t picked strawberries since 1954,” he said.
It was opening day for “U-pick” at Bushue Farms on Southeast Revenue Road in Boring, and owner Barry Bushue said he was having a record day.
“We’re about on schedule and up a little this year in terms of numbers,” he said about two hours after his 9 a.m. opening last Thursday, June 5.
As he knelt down on one kneepad, Ward looked out across the rolling fields of strawberries under the bright blue sky, and said the last time he picked strawberries was with his family back in Tennessee, to make extra money picking other fields.
“We would get a nickel for a quart container and a dime if we took the caps off,” he said. “I was born in Virginia and at 12 we moved to Tennessee. We didn’t grow (berries) ourselves but picked for other people.”
Ward’s wife, Marie, had firm plans for how they’ll use the berries they picked that morning.
“I’ll make jam and eat the rest,” she said.
Some U-pick farms also sell to commercial outfits, Bushue said, but his third-generation family farm has always only been solely for the public.
“We have a lot of repeat customers, some for 10 years,” he said. “And we’ve been having U-pick off and on for 50 years.”
Picking berries was a family outing for Jaclyn Russell of Portland and her children Robby, 4, Lucy, 6, and William, 2. As she sat on the ground between the rows, the kids scrambled all around her to pick berries and proudly show off all their haul.
“They’re being great helpers,” Russell said. And they’ll each get strawberries the way they like them.
“I have votes for strawberry jam, for strawberry lemonade and or just strawberries,” she said.
A few rows over, Olga Salyuk and her mother, Nina Nesterenko, both of Portland, wore gloves as they picked, but they weren’t doing it for themselves.
“We’re Ukrainian/Russian and we’re doing it for seniors and people with disabilities,” Salyuk said. “Sometimes in the summer we will also get old berries, clean them up and give them to people in the neighborhood, to people in the apartment building and to our clans.”
Salyuk said she has four in her clan, as does Nesterenko, who only speaks Russian.
The women moved from row to row. After a couple of hours of stooping to harvest the sweet Hood berries, they had almost 6 pounds of strawberries at $1.40 per pound.
The farm also has fields of Tillamook strawberries to pick, which are larger this year than usual, Bushue said, but not as sweet as the Hoods, so they need to be very ripe, but they keep longer. Overall, it’s been a good crop, he said.
“We were concerned that the freeze would affect the berries, but we’re lower than Sandy,” he said. “Washington County historically seems to come in a little earlier, but I have no idea why.”
Dave Gallant of Gallant Berry Farm said he thinks a bad freeze before Christmas contributed to a short crop this year. He sold out of ripe strawberries, he said, but also grows raspberries, boysenberries, marionberries and hay.
“The raspberries will be in in about three weeks,” he said.
Larry Thompson of Thompson farms said his strawberries came in well, but a little short and sooner than usual because it got warm early this year.
“The quality is better than ever with all the sunshine and dry weather,” he said. “That way you don’t have rot at all.”
WHERE TO FIND THEM
Some farms have websites, but many U-pick fields and roadside stands update their phone messages daily with information on hours and days they’ll be open and suggest you call first. At the Oregon Farm Bureaus’ website, you can click on the Oregon’s Bounty box to locate roadside stands, U-pick fields and on-farm festivals linked to Google maps.
The following list includes U-pick farms as well as farms with roadside stands in the Gresham area:
- Burns Farm — 2318 S.E. 302nd Avenue, Troutdale, OR 97060. Phone: 503-667-4380. Open Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., June through November. U-pick on weekends, stand open daily with fresh strawberries and vegetables.
- Fujii Farms — Berry stands at Northeast 242nd Avenue and Northeast Glisan Street and at Southeast Stark Street and Southeast Troutdale Road. 503-665-6659.
- Bushue Farms — 9880 S.E. Revenue Road, Boring, off Orient Drive. 503-663-6709. U-pick strawberries, Thursday through Saturday most weeks, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., two varieties, $1.40/pound. Snap peas, $2/pound. Call for details.
- Bithell Farms — 28355 S.E. Kelso Road, Boring, 503-663-6182. Takes phone orders for fresh berries in buckets. Berry Store at 15295 S.E. Amisigger Road in Boring. Sells frozen berries year-round. Mail orders by June 30.
- Liepold Farms — 14480 S.E. Richey Road, Boring. 503-663-5880.
- Thompson Farms — 24727 S.E. Bohna Park Road, Damascus. U-pick strawberries and berry stands on Northeast 242nd Avenue, 5 miles south of Gresham, and 1 mile north of Highway 212 on Southeast 242nd Avenue. U-pick will start this week. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Mondays. No insecticides used.
- n Gallant Berry Farm — 9550 S.E. 282nd Ave., Boring. 503-663-6535. Fresh fruit stand with strawberries now and raspberries in about three weeks.
- Olson Farms — 22255 S.E. Borges Road, Damascus. 503-658-2237. South of Gresham, on S.E. 243nd Avenue, turn right on Borges Road; or east of Damascus on Highway 212, turn north on SE 222nd to Borges Road. Open 7 days, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Strawberries and hanging baskets.
- Schedeen Farms — 28150 S.E. Highway 212, Boring. 503-663-1960. Strawberry stand but no U-pick. The Gresham stand is at the intersection of Division Street and Cleveland Avenue.
- Trapold Farms — 5211 N.E. 148th Ave., Portland. 503-253-5103.
- Troutdale Fruit Stop — 145 W. Historic Columbia River Highway, Troutdale. 503-667-3399.