The Native Fruit Association (NFA) was formed to promote and share knowledge about native fruits of the Midwest that have commercial possibilities. The group has received grants from Iowa Department of Land Stewardship to create demonstration plots and to create informative videos and a website. Red Fern Farm has been involved with NFA since its beginning.
You-Pick at Red Fern Farm has closed for 2019. Below is the information we posted for the season when it ran.
You-pick at Red Fern Farm is still by reservation only. You can call a day ahead to see if there is an opening or schedule your harvest day weeks in advance. We have lots of openings on weekdays, but weekends fill up quickly.
New this year is a $15 minimum. This $15, paid when you first arrive, covers the time it takes us to show you around the groves, train you on what and how to harvest and taste samples of fruit and nuts. After paying the $15, you don’t have to buy anything at our farm. If you do make a purchase, the first $15 is already paid for. How cool is that? The $15 is per group. As an added bonus we will be utilizing our new “Red Shed” to weigh you out at the end of your harvest. No need to drive back to our house for your weigh out.
The weird weather from fall of 2018 into the spring of 2019 has caused severe damage in our groves. Some trees will take years to recover. Each crop has been affected differently. You will see notes below. We will not be able to host as many customers this year in the pawpaw patches and there will be NO Chestnut You-Pick.
What to Expect: You can usually drive up and park close to the spot you will be harvesting. We have clean latrines, hand washing stations and picnic tables at each parking area. This is a safe area for children, but no dogs or cats are allowed (food security issues).
The grass will be mowed, but not as fine as a lawn. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, prickly chestnut burs are scattered on the ground. Our orchards are in a rural setting, close to “wild” timber. Bring bug repellent. Your children are welcome to observe and catch the frogs, insects, spiders and snakes they encounter. Please ask your children to be gentle and release all creatures before you leave the groves.
Aronia Berries: The Aronia bushes are loaded this year. The berries are available free for you-pick (see note on $15 visitation minimum above). They will hit the peak of ripeness during early September. We only have a few bushes still bearing fruit. They are located in the shade of chestnut and heartnut trees. Call for more information.
Hazels: (Still available as of 9/29/19) A decent crop of Hazels are available. Hazels are available at $1.00/pound for un-husked clusters or $2.00/pound husked nuts for you-pick. The season for hazels usually starts in late August and continues to mid-September. Hazels can be picked from the bushes or from the ground underneath. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into. It can take 30 minutes for one adult to pick clean one 10 foot tall bush and gather about 1-3 gallons of hazel clusters. One gallon of un-husked nuts (an ice cream bucket full) will yield about one pound of husked nuts. If you are interested in saving hazels for seed nuts, we have free information available – just ask.
Cornelian Cherries: (Season is over for 2019) Cornelian Cherries are available at $2.00/pound for you-pick. The season has been mid-August to mid-September. We recommend bringing a gathering cloth to spread under the bushes. The ripe berries are soft and sweet. Under ripe they are firmer and very tart. They will continue to ripen after picking. We have none available already picked (the family eats them up too fast).
Pawpaws: 80% of the pawpaw flower buds froze off this past winter. There is a much smaller crop available for 2019 and it is ripening later. For 2019, the pawpaw season runs from late
September to late October. Pawpaws are $3.00/pound when you pick them, $5.00/pound when we pick them. Bring buckets, boxes or crates. Ripe pawpaws are very soft and should not be stacked no more than 2 deep. Weekends are very popular, so call early to reserve a time slot. Tuesday – Thursday is an excellent time to have the pawpaw patch to yourself. It only takes about 15 minutes to get 5 – 10 pounds of pawpaws. Late afternoon is the best time to pick, but ripe pawpaws will be available all day. Recipes are available. There is no minimum or maximum for the amount of pawpaws you pick. We do ask you only pick what you plan to take home. We have many grafted trees. If you want to see what grafted variety you like the flavor of best, bring a black sharpie with you. You can write on the outside of the pawpaw what the variety it is. When you eat it later, you can compare it with other varieties.
American Persimmon: Persimmons are available, but took a hit from the past weather. We have a smaller crop, but still plenty for our customers at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick them. The 2019 season starts in late September and continues to mid-October. Persimmons are very soft when ripe. They should not be piled deeply in your gathering container. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into. They can be gathered from the ground or picked from the tree. Slightly under ripe persimmons are very astringent. Only orange persimmons will continue to ripen off the tree.
Heartnuts: Heartnuts got through the crazy weather just fine. Heartnuts are available at $2.00/pound for un-husked clusters or $4/pound without husks (they husk very easily) for you-pick. The season for heartnuts starts in early September and continues to mid-October. The nuts are gathered from the ground under the trees.
Asian Pears: The only Asian pears we will have this fall are Korean Giants that ripen in late October. The fruit of Korean Giants are large and excellent keepers, even at room temperature. They are available at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick.
Spicebush: Our spicebushes froze to the ground this past winter. No spicebush berries for 2019.
Chestnuts: Not available for You-Pick in 2019 – Sorry – What happened? Very unusual weather. The fall of 2018 was very wet. The soil was saturated from September 2018 through June 2019. In October the weather was still warm and the trees did not harden off for winter. In early November, the winter hit with very cold temperatures. The trees that had not hardened off enough for winter took severe winter damage. Then when Spring came, we got record amounts of rainfall. During May and the first half of June we averaged one inch of rain each day for 6 weeks. Chestnut trees like well drained soil. All that water kept soaking in and keeping the ground around the roots saturated. Our tree roots started dying. In June many trees had still not leafed out. We were afraid we had lost 80% of our mature chestnut trees. In July we started to see recovery. Now in August we think we only lost 10% of our trees, but there was no chestnut bloom in June and hardly any burs on the trees. We now believe we may only have a few nuts, but not a real crop in 2019. As such we are not opening our grove specifically for chestnut harvest. You are welcome to harvest what you find while here (see $15 minimum above), but we discourage people to come just for chestnuts.
See the previous you-pick season posts on how we ran the you-pick in 2017 & 2018 for chestnuts.
2019 Chestnut You-Pick Prices: If you manage to find any chestnuts, you pay $2.75/pound for everything you picked up. We discount that price by 25¢ if you come on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. On these days the price is $2.50. If you don’t want all the nuts, we will pay you 50¢ for each pound of chestnuts you gather and don’t take home.