Wise Bread has an interesting story about the economics behind a family trip to a “U Pick” apple orchard. Picking your own apples is now called “agritainment,” and it’s a better deal for the orchard than it is for you. On the other hand, the high prices for an “apple picking experience” may be the only thing keeping the apple trees on the land—and not another subdivision.
On a recent visit to Kuipers Family Farm, about an hour from Chicago, I shelled out $6.50 each for my husband, our 3-year-old daughter and myself to enter the orchard and pick 1/4 peck of apples, about 3 pounds. I could have sat on my couch and ordered a 3-pound-bag of apples from Peapod for $2.50.
I’m not saying there aren’t good reasons to visit a U-pick farm. For one thing, these operations have become the only way many apple growers stay on their land, so if you want to support local agriculture and stave off the groundbreaking of yet another subdivision, go for it.
“The other choice is selling (the land) for development,” said Jane Eckert, founder of Eckert AgriMarketing in St. Louis. One hundred thousand acres have already been taken out of apple production in the last 10 years, according to the US Department of Agriculture. With suburbs continually expanding into once-rural areas like the Kuipers’ Maple Park, now abutted by Chicagoland’s western reaches, selling out is often a lot more attractive than selling apples to supermarkets for 31 cents a pound.
The author’s day at the farm ended up costing her about $80. She’s not sure it was worth it, but didn’t seem to have too many negative things to say about the freshly made apple cider doughnuts. Yum.