Where to Pick Locally Grown Berries in Minnesota
Where to Pick Locally Grown Berries in Minnesota
By Ashlea Halpern
Nothing compares to the sun-drenched flavor of a freshly picked berry — so juicy and warm, it practically melts in the mouth. Fortunately for us, fresh berries are something Minnesota farmers do very, very well. According to Minnesota Grown, there are more than 90 farms raising strawberries here, upward of 40 growing raspberries and 30-plus with blueberries. Many of them offer berry hounds the opportunity to harvest their own fruit.
It’s prudent to plan ahead if you want to visit a pick-your-own farm: The berry season is short, and growers are at the whim of Mother Nature. Some farms will close early or for days at a time to let their crop ripen if they get slammed with visitors or pummeled by bad weather. Always confirm availability before setting out and double check how payment works, because some farms may accept cash or checks only.
When planning a day in the fields, be sure to slather on the sunscreen and wear light-colored clothing, sunglasses and a hat. Pack water and wear sensible shoes, because the ground may be muddy or uneven. Most farms provide picking containers, but some allow day trippers to bring their own. Shallow, flat boxes or five-quart ice cream pails work best; deeper containers can bruise the fruit at the bottom.
Lastly, remember that these are working farms — not theme parks. Little pickers should be supervised at all times and reminded to eat their berries at home, not in the fields. (Some farms have berry-washing stations if you want a snack on the car ride home.) Not all berry rows are wide enough to accommodate strollers and wagons, so call ahead if you want to bring one.
Ready to get picking? Here are 10 farms to get you started.
The Strawberry Basket | Monticello
Brad Munsterteiger learned how to raise strawberries from his parents, who ran a farm in Freeport. In the late ’90s, he and his wife, Bess, bought their own land in Monticello, where they now grow strawberries every June, followed by blueberries in early July. Of the farm’s 1,100 blueberry bushes, Northland is the staple cultivar, developed through the University of Minnesota planting program. Somewhere along the way, Brad and Bess also got into beekeeping, and they now have 40 hives. They sell raw and creamed honey, lip balm and lotion bars under their Big Woods Nectar label. The newest entrant to the farm’s lineup is hard-neck garlic, available for pre-order (but not pick your own) beginning in mid-July. 12591 Aetna Ave. NE, Monticello; 763-878-2875
Rod’s Berry Farm | North Branch
Though it also grows pumpkins and sorghum, sweet and tasty strawberries are what put Rod’s Berry Farm, an 80-acre spread just 50 minutes from the Twin Cities, on the map. Rodney Elmstrand has been in the berry business since 1982 and often greets visitors himself. He loves to explain the ins and outs of the farm — everything from patch etiquette (pick only in your assigned row and use the red flag to indicate where you finished) to the proper way to pluck a strawberry (look for those with the deepest, reddest hue, since the green ones won’t ripen off the vine, and pick it with the cap on, pinching the stem to prolong its freshness.) When you’re all picked out, take your haul to the weighing station and toss in a jar of local honey or maple syrup before ringing up. 28624 Zodiac St. NE, North Branch; 651-674-8765
Brambling Rows Farm | Brainerd
Travis and Rachel Cobb took over a beloved farm in 2019 and have already built their own local following. Their pick-your-own raspberries start ripening around the Fourth of July, with blueberries close on their heels and grapes coming in at the end of August or early September. The farm isn’t certified organic, but the couple works hard to follow organic farming practices for everything they grow. Beyond berries, there is plenty of fresh produce available for pick up, including heirloom tomatoes, rhubarb, asparagus and their signature spin on hydroponic lettuce. 7664 Roscoe Rd., Brainerd; 218-232-4238
Otter Berry Farm | New York Mills
This eight-acre, fourth-generation farm is one of the most family-friendly operations around. In addition to the usual berry-picking activities (pick-your-own and pre-picked strawberries ripen from mid-June to early July; raspberries follow from late August through the first major frost), there is a playground, picnic area, wagon rides and farm animals to ogle, including horses, sheep, goats, llamas, dairy calves, rabbits and a pig. The rows of strawberry and raspberry plants are wide enough to accommodate strollers, wagons and wheelchairs. Other seasonal draws include a popular corn maze and pumpkin patch. 38132 470th Ave., New York Mills; 218-346-5034
Blue Fruit Farm | Winona
Growing antioxidant-rich fruits such as blueberries, aronia berries (chokeberries) and black currants is the specialty of this five-acre farm in the fertile Wiscoy Valley. Co-founders Jim Riddle and Joyce Ford are passionate about organic farming; they use solar power and rainwater for irrigation and overhead netting to protect their plants from the birds. Fresh and frozen fruit is sold in five-pound cartons, alongside homemade jams, jellies, elderberry juice and sweet-and-sour honeyberries, aka haskaps, a thin-skinned berry from a honeysuckle shrub grown in Siberia for centuries but still pretty new in North America. U-pick for blueberries and black currants is by appointment only but takes place seven days a week during harvest season. Buckets are provided; kneeling pads and stools are available upon request. 31762 Wiscoy Ridge Rd., Winona; 630-437-1167
Wold Strawberries | Mabel
The Wold family has been growing strawberries in the scenic Driftless region since 1973. Folks from neighboring towns and the nearby Amish community help harvest, but those who want to pick their own berries are welcome, too. Strawberry season kicks off in early- to mid-June, followed by summer-bearing red, black and purple raspberries in early July. The blueberry bushes get picked over fast, so the Wolds ask visitors to call ahead to reserve a picking time. While you’re there, look for the pollinator habitat adjacent to the blueberry bushes. What started as a humble 10-foot-by-20-foot plot has expanded to more than a quarter acre of lovely prairie seeded with tall grasses and native wildflowers. 22988 Berry Dr., Mabel; 507-493-5897
Honeyberry USA | Bagley
Honeyberries may be Jim and Bernis Ingvaldson’s stock-in-trade, but it’s hardly the only cold hardy fruit they grow at their organic farm 25 miles west of Bemidji. The pick-your-own season usually starts in late June and runs through the end of September, although the farm hours vary by day, month and weather. Zesty-sweet honeyberries are ready first, followed by saskatoons (juneberries), dwarf sour cherries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries in July. Come August and September, the Ingvaldsons focus on aronia berries, elderberries and grapes. Check the recipe section of the farm’s website for ideas on what to do with your fresh haul. 19736 350th St., Bagley; 218-694-3071
Carter’s Red Wagon Farm | Park Rapids
The Carter family has roots in Park Rapids dating to 1954. While ready-picked quarts, buckets and flats are available through July, this is primarily a pick-your-own operation. Ruby-red strawberries usually burst onto the scene in late June and last through mid-July. During harvest season, Red Wagon is open six days a week from 7 a.m. until noon; Mondays are the best day to pick because the farm is always closed on Sunday. Though Tony Carter has scaled back his operation in recent years, he still sells homegrown asparagus and rhubarb in May and June — and encourages visitors to come back in September and October for his brother Dwight Carter’s annual fall festival and corn maze. 14766 119th Ave., Park Rapids; 218-732-4979
Berries Etc. | Duluth
Talk about the ultimate bragging rights — Deb Filipovich’s blueberries won a blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair. Her farm is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. during harvest season, but she asks that guests book a half-hour picking slot or place their order for pre-picked quarts and flats in advance of their visit. In addition to Patriot, Polaris and St. Cloud varieties of blueberries, Filipovich recently planted lingonberries and offers apple picking in the fall. 1331 E. 7th St., Duluth; 218-393-0787
Peterson’s Berry Farm | Eveleth
This Northland estate, founded in 1918, just earned the 2023 Century Farm designation, an award that honors farms with 100 years of continuous family ownership. Though Peterson’s largely specializes in Christmas trees, 11 acres west of Highway 53 are designated for pick-your-own berries. The output includes strawberries in late June or early July and saskatoons, raspberries, blueberries and aronia berries in late July and August. If you spot any fresh-grown asparagus or a bottle of family-tapped maple syrup for sale when checking out, grab it. 7976 Hwy. 37, Eveleth; 218-744-5759