How to Pick Your Own Strawberries
at Plow Creek Farm
in Tiskilwa Illinois

Picking strawberries with flat, carrier, and flag

Picking your own strawberries has its benefits, but also its responsibilities.

You have fun and the pleasure of getting your own food. You can be outside with family or friends. It is educational for those who have not picked their own berries before. You do the quality control, making sure the strawberries are not overripe or underripe. And picking your own strawberries costs less.

We have done a lot of work planting, watering, mulching, weeding, and otherwise taking care of the strawberry plants. It is your responsibility to treat them well.

How to pick strawberries

We will give you a strawberry flat (that's a shallow waxed cardboard box) for free and a wire carrier to carry the flat. We also have quart boxes for small children to use, or they may pick into your flat. We'll show you where to start picking. Please stay in your given row -- or ask us to show you a new row. You will start at a flag. Put it in the loops on the handle of your carrier. When you get up, leave the flag where you quit picking berries so you or the next person will know where to resume picking.

Strawberry carrier, flat, and flag

Pick ripe berries. Look a strawberry over before picking it. If the tip is still white, it is not as sweet and ripe as it can be.

Look carefully under the leaves and along both edges of your row; strawberries like to hide. Please pick thouroughly, getting all the berries that are ready. It greatly helps us and the next person who picks your row later if you remove berries that have bad spots and place them in the aisle behind you. Some people even pull some weeds out for us -- but that's not required!

Do not pile your flat too high (over 5 inches), or the berries on the bottom may be crushed. When your flat gets full, mark your spot with your flag and bring your strawberries back to our stand and get a new flat if you wish. Sometimes we will be able to bring new flats out to you in the field.

People pick strawberries using many different postures. Some of our fastest pickers pick standing and bent over. But that posture gives many of us sore backs. Squatting and kneeling both work well. Sitting is ok if you are tiring, but it is more effort to move down the row.

Strawberries are tender and bruise if they are squeezed; pick them gently. Strawberries keep better if you pick them with the cap and stem on, but if you are going to eat or process them soon, you can save time by picking them without the cap.

To pick with the stem, with the strawberry lightly in your hand, grasp the stem just above the berry and pull with a slight twist. Except for the largest strawberries, you can keep several berries in your hand before placing them (gently) in your flat.

To pick the strawberry without the cap, you can sometimes squeeze lightly against the cap and push the strawberry into you hand with a finger. You can also pinch the cap off; this works better with longer fingernails.

Sometimes strawberry picking is hot work. Some like a broad brimmed hat. Please drink plenty of water; we don't want to have to call an ambulance for you. We have water available at our stand. Coming early avoids some of the heat. We usually have a few chairs to rest on in the shade of our tent.

Please walk in the aisles and paths. When we step across rows of strawberries, we sometimes damage the plants.

Except during our self-serve picking times later in the season, we will have our friendly staff available to help you. Feel free to ask for help or ask any question.

Strawberries are sold by weight. We will weigh them for you and calculate what you owe. We accept cash or checks. (Sorry, no credit cards.) You may take the strawberries home in the flats we give you. If you keep your flat and bring it back to pick again, we will give you a fifty cent refund for each of your own flats you use.

See also Strawberry Overview, Strawberry Pictures and Strawberry News

Other Pick Your Own crops include:
    Blueberries, Blackberries and Raspberries.

For schedule and availability of strawberries and other crops, visit our Crop Calendar or Farm Headlines page, which is updated daily during harvest season.


Before you come,
 check our
Daily Update
to be sure we
are open.

"The best berries are the ones you pick yourself."

Some people say "pick your own" (PYO), "Pick it yourself" or "self-pick"; others say "You-Pick" which is written "U-pick", "U-pik" or even "U-pic", but any which way, it is a fun and economical way to get the fresh strawberries you want.

Bring the family or the gang. Children are very welcome -- even if they eat more than they put in their containers.

Plow Creek Farm is located near Tiskilwa, IL
(Bureau County), about 8 miles south of Princeton.