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Take your pick of area farm goods

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Todd Mizener

Pick-your-own businesses are popular in the Quad-Cities ranging from strawberries to apples. Molly Robertson of Colona was busy last June with two baskets full of berries at the Happy Hollow U-Pick in East Moline.

How about some fresh-picked asparagus spears, dripping with butter, or some field-fresh strawberries atop a piece of soft cake with a dab of whipped cream?

They can be yours -- well, soon anyway. Strawberries and asparagus are the first of several favorite pick-your-own vegetables and fruits. They're followed by apples and pumpkins in the fall, and who can ignore the tradition of picking the family Christmas tree in the winter.

The Quad-Cities' pick-your-own season starts in May when the asparagus spears break through the ground and strawberries change from blushing pink to devilish red. That's when the hot lines begin ringing off the hook with enthusiasts looking for picking times. Messages will vary from farm to farm, yet when one says it's ready, the others generally are too.

The area is ripe with pick-your-own operations and those who will pick it for you.

Asparagus, also fondly called the Lilies of Spring, is the first pick-your-own to come on. The first spears generally appear in early May and last about six weeks. It is sold by the pound from places like the Farmer's Market in Moline to roadside stands in addition to the pick-your-own.

John Sedlock of Lynn Center will harvest abut 2,000 pounds of asparagus. Some of his asparagus is sold to area restaurants, some is sold from an outlet in Moline and a lot of it is sold right off the farm. People like to see where their food is grown, Mr. Sedlock has said.

People like the pick-your-own operations for a variety of reason. It not only gives them a chance to visit the farm where their produce is grown, it also gives them a chance to unwind and get back to nature. Sometimes, picking their own can save some money.

Susie Andrews from Happy Hollow U-Pick near Port Byron said it will save customers about $1 a pound off store prices.

Pick-your-own operations not only sell the produce, they sell fun. Bruce Curry owner of Country Corners near Alpha and Berri and Gene Dennhardt of Port Byron have created a fall festival of fun. Each has a developed a maze from corn and offer a variety of other activities.

Mr. Curry will take pumpkin pickers on a hayrack ride through his patch, and the Dennhardts will sell you some grain to feed one of the sheep, horses, goats or chickens in their petting zoo.

Before the pumpkins ripen on the vine, however, the orchards are full of bright apples. Stone's Apple Orchard in Hampton has more than 50 varieties to choose from. In addition to a large variety of apples, Wainwright's Orchard near Hillsdale offers apple-cider ice cream.

When the apples, pumpkin and fall are waning, thoughts turn to Christmas and the area is abundant in Christmas tree farms where families continue the tradition of hunting their yule tree.

Like the asparagus, strawberries and pumpkin farms, Christmas tree farms are prepared for fun. Santa, sleigh rides, reindeer and fresh cider are all part of the area Christmas tree farm's appeal.

-- By Pam Berenger (February 9, 1998)

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