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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cherry Picking - An Inexpensive Family Outing

Several years ago, a friend was kind enough to invite me on a cherry picking picnic.

I had so much fun that I've gone back nearly every year to pick my own cherries and to enjoy the beautiful scenery. This year, I'm excited to take Jackson along with us, though I know we'll probably have a time keeping him off the ladders and out of the trees.

We always pick at Levering Orchard in Cana, Virginia, a family-owned farm that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. For the first time in years, it seems that they'll be having a bumper crop. (Sometimes the weather conspires against the cherries and if you don't pick on the first weekend, you don't get cherries.) This year, picking begins June 4.

I've found that in many cases, the pick-your-own price for cherries is cheaper than you'll find them at the grocery store.

If you live in North Carolina or Virginia, I'd recommend you make the drive to Levering Orchard. The orchard is near the Blue Ridge Parkway, so you can take a scenic drive during your outing. There are some great picnic spots along the parkway or you can have your lunch under one of the cherry trees at the orchard.

There are some great farmstands along Highway 52 leading to Cana, and we always stop to buy half-runners (my husband's favorite variety of green beans), sncks and Amish cheese.

In the past, we've combined our trip to Levering Orchard with a stop at Chateau Morrisette winery. They have a great restaurant, but I would recommend reservations. And I would recommend eating before you pick cherries. It can sometimes be dirty, sweaty work, so you may not feel like dining in a nice restaurant afterwards.

After picking cherries, we always stop at Nancy's Candy Co. because they make the best homemade fudge.

If you don't live near Levering Orchard, you can find a list of other cherry orchards and pick-your-own fruit farms online. There you'll find a state-by-state list.

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