Keeping Cherished Traditions Alive
Back in the 1940’s, during WWII, families received ration books filled with stamps that they could trade in for necessities such as meat, oil, canned goods, and sugar. According to Ron Nunn, when the ladies didn’t want their giant bags of sugar to go to waste, they came from San Francisco out to Brentwood in search of peaches. They approached the local farmers to see if they could buy boxes of peaches to take home and can. Each year brought more and more individuals hunting down Brentwood fruit until they finally asked if they could pick their own. The farmers realized the business opportunity in front of them, and so the first U-Pick farm opened up in the 1940’s.
As Brentwood farms grew in popularity and more of them began to open for U-Pick, they came to the conclusion that they would be stronger together, and by the 1980’s Harvest Time Brentwood was formally formed. “We are a nonprofit with the main purpose of marketing for the local U-Pick farms, country stores, and now wineries,” said Harvest Time Brentwood President, Jessica Enos. Originally Harvest Time created a map of all of the participating farms, and the farmers would drive out to China Town in San Francisco, local AAA’s, and various farmers markets to distribute the maps. “That’s why you see every member has a number associated with it. That’s their number on the map.” The map is still handed out today and available at the local farm stands, in addition to a digital version on the Harvest Time Brentwood website and social media accounts.
Harvest Time Brentwood is a huge resource for Brentwood residents because it helps retain ag land and assists local farmers in continuing to have visitors and customers. It’s a win-win. “A big portion of why people move here is because of the generational agricultural feel, which is a result of all of the farms and stands that are open. We have active agriculture happening.” Harvest Time also enables visitors to have one place for U-Pick information and updates. “We have the largest number of farms in a small geographic area in the nation and the oldest U-Pick West of the Mississippi,” said Jessica. “Harvest Time is a great way to have all of the information in one location so that visitors don’t have to go to 65 different websites. They can look at our map and plan out where to go.”
The beauty of the Harvest Time Brentwood website is that their map is interactive and available from 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. every day. Anyone who visits the site can see in real time which farms are open, their operating hours, where they’re located, and any updates. “It truly helps to give better direction and streamline the process as much as possible.” Visitors can also see what produce is available throughout year seasonally. U-Pick farms offer cherries; stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, pluots, and loquats; and berries like strawberries, raspberries, and mulberries. Then there is the Fall harvest which includes pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, and more. “We even have U-Pick flowers,” said Jessica. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Recently Harvest Time Brentwood has announced that, after years of research, Brentwood has officially been named the U-Pick Capital. “We met with a local historian and she did a ton of research to prove that, yes, we are in fact the largest U-Pick because of how many farms we have in a small radius,” said Jessica. “It is trademarked, and we are officially the U-Pick Capital. So come visit our farms and experience the cherished traditions and fresh produce!” Jessica recommends that if the weekends are too crowded and overwhelming, many of the farms are open during the week and offer private pickings and later hours. “The farmers live here. They’re locals and contribute to the local community and love our local community,” said Jessica. “Call them and see if they’re offering what you’re looking for! Some of them even have pre-picked fruit if you don’t want to or have the time to pick it for yourself.”
Jessica has been part of Harvest Time Brentwood for the last eight years and has seen a lot of change, but one thing remains the same. “Our goal is to make sure that all of our farms have all of the business they want. We would love to see more locals out at the farms. This year is a huge crop, so it’s important for everyone to come out and pick!” With the amount of rain this Winter brought, in combination with the cooler weather, the crops are robust, and Jessica promises that there will be cherries available all the way through the end of June. “This elongated season will enable locals to come out and really experience the farms. We even try to make sure that we keep our fruit low so that kids can pick for themselves. We want the little ones to have that experience.”
Brentwood residents certainly are lucky to live in such a special place. “I have multiple people who have said that they fly in from Vietnam to visit family in the City and specifically time it so that they can come out here for U-Pick,” said Jessica. “We only have to drive four miles for that experience. It’s an amazing luxury. You can easily pick your way all the way through December. So come out and support the farms!”
Photos by: Harvest Time Brentwood & U-Pick Capital