Tag Archives: pick your own

MFF strawberry fieldsIt was a long, delicious season.  See you next year!!

The early spring brought early berries-- yum!   If you've never had fresh-picked berries, it's time to change that!  Come pick your own and find out.  We've expanded our fields and they're already full of luscious bright all natural berries, just waiting for you.

We use sustainable farming practices so we do not use any sprays or commercial fertilizers on our berries, which makes our berries ready to eat (or make into jam or strawberry shortcake or maybe strawberry margaritas?)

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We're really sad to say it,  but we are cancelling Strawberry Fest.  The fields are already quite soggy and the forecast is for more rain this weekend:(

Weather permitting, we will open for U Pick next weekend, May 28-29.  Please check our Facebook page for updates.

 

We are open. Please visit our new Cunningham Creek website for hours, directions and happenings!

Cunningham Creek Winery at Middle Fork Farm is under construction! (Can you hear the excitement in my voice)? The walls are up and, as I write this, the roof trusses are being set. With a lot of hard work and an equal amount of luck we’ll be open in June.

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We were hoping to complete construction before strawberry season but that’s looking a bit iffy—especially since spring seems to have already arrived and strawberries may be here earlier this year. It’s farming in Virginia (Translation: plan for the best and adapt as we go)!

So, we’ve adapted and adopted Plan B: Set up a tasting bar in the Pick Your Own Berries picnic Middle Fork Farm strawberriesarea. What could be better—fresh picked strawberries, a picnic by the creek, and your first taste of Cunningham Creek Wines? We’ll post on Facebook as soon as we have an opening day for Pick Your Own. In the meantime, mark your calendar for our inaugural Strawberry Fest on June 4.

Cunningham Creek Winery will have 4 sections: a tasting room, a community meeting room, a farm store, and of course, the winery operations.   The Tasting Room is Cunningham Creek Winery Merlotdesigned to provide plenty of room for sampling our wines, and once you’ve selected your favorites, there’s an open area with comfortable seating to linger, sip, and chat.   On a nice day, you can move outdoors to the patio or the lawn. In winter you can warm by the farmhouse-style fireplace.

The Community Room will be available for meetings and private parties. It’s a versatile room with a separate entrance that can be completely closed off from the Tasting Room.   We’ll do our tastings in here on Friday nights when we have live music in the Tasting Room!

 

Our Farm Store will sell our strawberries and strawberry spreads, and so much more: locally Middle Fork Farm Spreadsproduced and grown vegetables, meats, cheeses, eggs, honey, chocolates, breads, and other specialty items. From pasture-raised fresheggslocal chicken to creamy artisanal Virginia cheeses--we’ll have something for everyone!

 

The Winery barrel room will be visible from the tasting room and if you want to learn about the wine making process, you can sign up for a tour!  Throughout the year, we plan to host special events in the winery.

We’ll also be having regular events, including bringing live music to Fluvanna on Friday nights! LocalVocalsWe’re still working on our regular event calendar but for now we’re planning to have Yoga (outside when possible, inside when not), Lady’s Night, BYOBBQ, and a fall pumpkin festival with Middle Fork PumpkinFarm pumpkins.

As our opening gets closer, we’ll post dates and times. For now, please “like” our new Cunningham Creek Winery Facebook page.   Watch for updates and photos there as well as on our Middle Fork Farm Facebook page!

 

Bruce, Rick, Sara, Snickers, Doodle & I all want to say THANK YOU for choosing us as your destination for U Pick strawberries!

Thank you for supporting local farming!

Thank you for being kind to the plants (so they can keep on producing)!

Thank you for keeping our farm and creek clean!

Thank you for spreading the word!

Middle Fork Farm U pick

Middle Fork Farm U PickWe loved meeting so many enthusiastic berry pickers, strawberry spread tasters and picnickers over the Memorial Weekend.   From what you told us, you were busy making a lot of strawberry pies and ice cream once you got home. And, of course, eating good ol’ delicious berries right from the bowl.

Middle Fork Farm berry picking

 

 

It was wonderful to see berry pickers of all ages, including a lot of multi-generational families sharing holiday fun. The toddler set definitely had an advantage due to their proximity to the berries (but probably limited by their attention span).

Middle Fork Farm creek

 

 

After picking, the  creek was a fun place to cool off.  Our creek (Middle Fork of Cunningham Creek) is quite healthy so we heard lots of shrieks and giggles as kids caught (and released) frogs, crayfish, and baby turtles.

 

Snickers and Doodle were much less active than the kids. They greeted a few early pickers and then decided to sleep at the check-out table for the rest of the day—we should have hung a "do not disturb" sign on them.

MiddleForkFarmSnickersNext weekend we’ll be sampling our brand new strawberry spread flavor, Strawberry Merlot (in anticipation of our tasting room/winery opening in 2016).

Weather permitting, we'll be open weekends through the end of June--check Facebook for updates.  We're also available for private pickings for groups of 10 or more on Wed., Thurs., and Fri.

Come see us, taste all our yummy spreads, and pick your own berries.

 

We know you love strawberries -- so we made the assumption that  you might be fascinated by some strawberry trivia.

  • Over 53 percent of seven to nine year olds picked strawberries as their favorite fruit.
  • Eight strawberries will provide 140 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C for kids.
  • Middle Fork Farm strawberriesOne cup of strawberries is only 55 calories.
  • Strawberries are not true berries because their seeds are on the outside—usually around 200 of them.
  • Strawberries are a member of the genus Fragaria, which is the rose family.
  • Strawberries are grown in every state in the United States and every province of Canada.
  • Native forms of strawberries adapt to various climates and are indigenous to every major continent except Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Seventy per cent of a strawberry's roots are located in the top three inches of soil.
  • Strawberries are the first fruit to ripen in the spring.
  • The Musee de la Fraise is a museum in Belgium just for strawberries.
  • According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the annual per capita consumption of fresh and frozen strawberries is 4.85 pounds (Yours are waiting for you at Middle Fork Farm!)

Middle Fork Farm strawberries

Remember we'll be open for Pick Your Own on Sat. and Sun. through the end of June (maybe longer, if the weather is kind! Check our Facebook page for exact times and weather updates)  If you have a group of 10 or more, you can also schedule a private picking on Wed.,  Thurs., or Fri.  Be sure to get your Berry Lover's Club card---buy 10 get 1 free!

Sources:

http://extension.illinois.edu/strawberries/facts

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/strawberries.html

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/food/strawberries.html

 

 

You’ve already read a lot about our goats and you’ve met Snickers and Doodle, our Australian Shepherds, but lots of people want to know what other critters live on the farm. So, this blog is all about the non-human residents of Middle Fork Farm--horses, a mini-mule, cats, and chickens.

I’ll start with horses and introduce you to our newest barnyard resident, Cunningham (aka Charlie).

MiddleForkFarmAvery&Charlie

Cunningham is a Warmblood colt born on April 15 to my mare, Avery. He’s a big guy and quite rambunctious. We were lucky enough to get to watch his birth, which was really exciting. Avery is doing an amazing job as a first-time mom. She’s super attentive to Charlie, but perfectly happy to allow us in to handle and admire him.

MiddleForkFarmCharlie

 

MiddleForkFarmGracie

 

Avery’s herd-mates include Gracie, Isabelle, and Jackson.   Gracie is a registered Paint without any spots. This is known as a breeding stock horse. She’s a wonderful trail horse and even though she’s the smallest, she’s the alpha mare.

 

 

MiddleForkFarmIsabelle

 

Isabelle, another Warmblood, is my friend, Bennie’s, dressage and trail horse. She and Avery are best buddies and before Charlie, were always together.

 

 

Jackson, our clever and precociousMiddleForkFarmJackson mini-mule has experience as a foal-nanny and can't wait to play with Charlie.  Last fall he discovered a way to escape through the electric fence. After we caught and returned him several times, he decided he didn’t need an escort and as soon as we got close, he’d take off and put himself back in the pasture.

 

Keeping the horses company in the barn are our 5 wonderful barn cats. They are friendly and earn their keep as incredible hunters! Two years ago a neighbor gave us Jewel and her week-old kittens. All are solid grey. Two, Subway and Pepper, went to live with Sara and Rick (really with Laura and Maya), one went to a friend, and other two stayed with us. As they were identical, it seemed only appropriate to name them Darryl and Darryl.

MiddleForkFarmGrayCats

 

MiddleForkFarmLarry

 

 

And, since we had Darryl and Darryl we needed a Larry (see Bob Newhart show). Larry is either trying to roll over on the top fence board or following someone around. He was with us to watch Charlie’s birth!

 

 

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Ty Kitty is our last addition. She was a rescue after Sara’s friend found her stuck in the engine of her car. She was a tiny kitten when we got her and has since grown into a beautiful fluffy cat determined to catch the birds in the rafters of the barn (totally impossible!).

 

 

Twelve laying hens round out the barn. We do love our fresh eggs but have discovered the origin of the expression "dumb cluck."  Recently we added 7 Cochin hens to our flock.  I was warned that this variety likes to "sit" (i.e. sit on eggs and try to hatch them, even if they're not fertile).  It was certainly not an understatement. How many chickens do you see in this box?

MiddleForkFarmCochins

The answer is 3.

If you’ve been following us, you know our goat herd has grown. Most of the kids have moved on to new homes, but we added 7 doelings from this year’s group to our herd. We do have our last 3 bucklings are for sale (for more information contact Sara at 540-540-424-3986).  Two of the bucklings (now wethers i.e. neutered males) are 4-H market projects and will be for sale at the Fluvanna Fair in August. Quizno, our buck, will be with us through this year’s breeding season.

MiddleForkFarmDoelings

Snickers and Doodle haven’t gotten into any trouble for awhile, although Doodle did present us with a dead raccoon this week—it is the beginning of raccoon and possum hunting season for Snickers and Doodle (mostly Doodle). They had their spring buzz-cut and, as you can see, look like puppies with big feet.

MiddleForkFarmAussies

Strawberry News

The berry fields are looking quite white with blooms. We will be opening for Pick Your Own on Sat. May 23 and continue to be open on Sat. and Sun. through June (maybe even July, depending on the weather).  Exact dates and times will be posted on our Facebook page. If you have a group of 10 or more, we will schedule a special private picking for you during the week.

Please come visit us, pick some berries, meet Snickers and Doodle, and enjoy a picnic by the creek.

MiddleForkFarmBerries

 

Well, I didn’t meet my goal for writing blogs in 2014, but it’s a new year with new hope and (more realistic) ambition -- one blog per month. So, here’s my January blog…

Wrapping up 2014

Goats: If you’ve been following our FB page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Middle-Fork-Farm/540326095986621), you already know we have 21 adorable, rambunctious goat kids -- 12 girls and 9 boys. They were all born in a very busy six-day period from December 9 - 14. The does gave birth so quickly that Bruce and Rick had to convert our 4 spacious birthing stalls into 6 less spacious birthing stalls to accommodate all the new moms and kids.

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With lots of family help, Sara and I tagged, vaccinated, weighed, and photographed all the kids when they were one week old. There was lots of chasing, laughing, and squealing by humans and kids alike (and occasional barking from Snickers and Doodle while barn cats, Jewel and Larry, came by periodically to make sure we were on task). We weighed the kids again this past weekend and they are growing fast—approximately ½ lb per day!

P1070610 We decided that we should pick a naming theme for each set of kids to help us keep track of each generation (we only name the does as the bucklings will be sold). Laura was captivated last year when she studied Greek gods and goddesses (Percy Jackson helped, too), so we decided to go with a Greek theme for this year. Not all the doelings are named but so far we’ve got Hera, Hestia, Aphrodite (of course), Artemis and Demeter.

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Vines and Wines: Rick and crew were busy in the fall winterizing the vineyard. This involved two key tasks: winterizing pipes and irrigation lines and “hilling” the vines. Hilling is just what it sounds like—making hills around each vine. This protects the grafted wood from freezing. As you might imagine, this can be a very labor-intensive process if done by hand. So, in typical Rick style he researched “hillers” and designed and built—yes, built —an attachment for our tractor to make the task more efficient. Yeah, Rick!!

IMG_2554Bruce has also been hard at work making our first vintages of red wine with guidance from his mentor, Matthieu Finot, winemaker at King Family Vineyards. These will be our reds when we IMG_2621open our winery/tasting room in Spring 2016! We had lots of help from family and friends in the fall sorting and processing the grapes before they could be made into wine.

We now have four varieties of red wine ageing in barrels. From these, Bruce plans to make two pure varietal wines and one red blend wine. Three of the four varieties have been “topped off” (in lay terms, the barrels were filled with wine so there’s no room for air) and will rest for a year. The fourth barrel still has to finish its 2nd fermentation.

In late fall, we began working with architect, Susannah Marshall, on the winery/tasting room/farm store design. We’ve picked a picturesque site between the vineyard and the woods and plan to start construction in the spring.

Strawberries and Spreads: The strawberries, like the vines, have been winterized. It’s a longer IMG_8568process because they go dormant much slower than the vines and not only does the foliage have to be trimmed but the wounds from the pruning have to heal before we can put them to sleep for the winter with a cover of hay.

We hope you’ve tasted our Strawberry Balsamic, Strawberry Lavender, and Strawberry Vanilla Spreads. They are available around town at Foods of all Nations, Great Harvest Bread, Jefferson Pharmacy, Michie Tavern, Salt Artisan Market, The Inn at Monticello, and The Bakery in Farmville. We also have 9 oz. jars available at the farm, but we are sold out of Samplers (note to self—make more Samplers in 2015!).

photo 1We received approval from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs (VDACS) for our new flavors, Spicy Strawberry Spread and Ginger Lover’s Peach. They will be available through the farm and local stores in 2015. I am working on a new strawberry flavor (can’t disclose the flavor yet) and will write more after I finish experimenting with the recipe. Our farm kitchen now has VDACS approval so in the future we will make our spreads both at the farm and The Prince Edward Cannery. All of our spreads qualify for the VA Finest designation.

Last word on strawberry spreads…we are thrilled to be listed as an Edible Pick in the Artisan IMG_8569Issue (winter 2015) of Edible Blue Ridge!

A glimpse of what’s coming in 2015…

  • Prune the vines, then “de-hill” them
  • Uncover the berries
  • Plant more Merlot vines
  • Plant more strawberries
  • Wean the kids
  • Breed the yearling does
  • Start construction on the winery/tasting room/farm store
  • Open for Pick Your Own Strawberries starting late May/early June

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P1070177Saturday was our first Pick Your Own strawberries event and it was a big success! Our customers left with smiles and berries (lots of berries!), we met some new neighbors and area visitors, Snickers and Doodles made lots of new friends, and at the end of the day the fields were in great shape (which made Rick very happy!). We saw a variety of picking styles from the very serious selector to the random picker, but all variations included some taste testing in search of those delicious ripe red all over berries.

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We want to thank all of our visitors for following our one rule, be nice to the plants! P1070180We also want to send an especially big shout out to the moms, dads, and grandparents with young kids—thanks for teaching them to respect the plants! Please come again!

Getting ready was a multiday project. Friday was clean-up day for the strawberry fields, mowing around the area, and staging for the morning. Saturday we got an early start setting up displays, canopies, signs, and (very important) the PortaJohn. Rick made a new two-sided chalkboard from an old farm window frame and we discovered that Sara has a highly valued skill—hand-lettering. From now on, in addition to being our goat whisperer she is also our talented sign writer.

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In addition to you pick berries, we sampled and sold our yummy spreads —Strawberry-Balsamic, Strawberry-Lavender, and Strawberry-Vanilla.   They are made with twice as many berries as sugar so the taste is much different than what you’ll find at the grocery store. Each has a unique flavor and, borrowing from my (many) wine tasting experiences, I sequenced the tasting to highlight each flavor profile.P1070174

We began with Strawberry Balsamic, which tempers the sweetness to enhance the naturally rich berry flavor. This was our best seller. Sample #2 was the Strawberry Vanilla, which is made with real vanilla beans. It produces a mild vanilla note that pairs well with the sweetness of the berry (Our young customer, Simon, left with 2 jars and a big smile). We ended the tasting with Strawberry Lavender. According to Sara (its her absolute favorite), “the flavor is unexpected and addictive.” It has a strong berry flavor with a floral note at the end—you can smell the lavender, as well as taste it.  All of the flavors make a tasty and quick appetizer when paired with a soft white cheese, such as brie.  Sprinkle a few nuts on the top or garnish with mint or basil and you're set to go.

It seemed that for many of the kids the creek (the Middle Fork of Cunningham Creek—the source of our farm name) was a bigger attraction than the berries. Laura and Maya graciously Kids@Creekshowed visitors where to find and sometimes how to catch fish, crayfish, and frogs. Of course, rocks, sand and water are enough to keep most kids busy for a long time and on Saturday it really did. I think we even had a few adults cooling off in the creek after doing their time in the berry field.

 

At the end of the day, we “debriefed” about the pick your own experience. We talked about a lot of details but the big question was, should we do this again? We all agreed that Pick Your Own will become a regular part of our strawberry season and we will do it again later this summer.  Next time, we're thinking we'll open "picking" from 9-12 on Saturday morning and 1-3 on Sunday afternoon.  We'd love to know what you think of the Sunday option (send us an email).  As soon as we have dates, we'll post it on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Middle-Fork-Farm/540326095986621). And, next season we’ll start Pick Your Own early in the season so more people can enjoy getting their berries straight from the field.

In other farm news, Bruce has finished his winemaker certificate courses through PVCC and UC Davis--kudos! Just for fun, he’s going to make some strawberry wine this summer and then in the fall, he’ll start making red wines so they’ll be aged just right for our tasting room opening in the spring of 2016.