U-Pick Farms Fresh as Can Be
February 20th, 2019 by Pamela A. Keene

Nothing beats the freshness of a ripe strawberry picked right from the field.
Photo courtesy of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association

Plump, juicy red strawberries are ripe for the picking at more than a dozen commercial strawberry farms across central Florida.

For a fun family outing, visit a U-pick farm and come home with baskets of strawberries that can be turned into pies, jam, cakes, used in salads and to make frothy cold beverages. And, of course, they are good eaten plain.

“U-pick brings families and their children out to see how their food is grown,” says Sue Harrell, director of marketing for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. “Kids get to see that strawberries are grown on plants and start out as flowers before they turn into strawberries. They don’t grow in the grocery store. U-pick gives children and their families a chance to learn about where their food actually comes from.”

The Florida Strawberry Growers Association has a list of members who offer U-pick at floridastrawberry.org.

Other U-pick crops available throughout the year include blueberries, grapes, citrus, peaches, sweet corn and tomatoes. Check out www.freshfromflorida.com/Consumer-Resources/Buy-Fresh-From-Florida/U-Pick-Farms or do a Google search for your area. Hours and dates vary by farm.

Isn’t It Odd?
Every state has its stranger-than-fiction attractions.

Check out Spook Hill, http://lakewaleschamber.com/spook-hill, where cars appear to roll uphill. The gravity-defying mystery is near Lake Wales. It is promoted by the Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce as a tourist attraction, and even has its own website, www.spookhill.info.

At the south end of Marco Island on Cape Romano, www.escapetomarco.com, you can visit futuristic dome homes, built in the early 1980s as a vacation destination for former oil producer Bob Lee. The six-dome concrete structure sits 180 feet off the shore and is only accessible by boat or kayak. After Hurricane Irma, two of the structures sank because of erosion. The others are in danger of sinking, too. If you go, respect the wildlife and use caution as you approach structures.

Less Than an Hour Away
No matter where you live in Florida, the beach is never more than 60 minutes away.

Choices vary widely—from the Gulf Coast’s fluffy white sand and blue water to the firm sand and sea breezes of the Atlantic Ocean to the green-blue water and tropical feel of the Florida Keys.

Beaches with boardwalks and condos, plus secluded shores and seaside parks, are havens for residents.

Why not pick a new beach destination to explore this spring?

Considering a Cruise?
If you are thinking about a cruise, here are some tips for saving money, time and hassles.

  • Register for several cruise line newsletters that regularly offer promotions, such as free airfare, trip discounts or onboard savings. That will give you a choice of deals, itineraries and dates.
  • Create a packing checklist with your must-haves, such as prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, flip flops, swimwear, casual clothes and perhaps a dressier outfit for the ship’s higher-end restaurant or formal nights.
  • Bring a day bag with a change of clothes and a swimsuit so you can enjoy the ship’s amenities while waiting for your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom.
  • Consider booking onboard activities such as shows—many available at no extra charge—and specialty meals before you leave for your trip.

Florida native and travel enthusiast Pamela A. Keene is a freelance journalist who specializes in travel, gardening, personality and feature writing. She is also a photographer and accomplished sailor. Her website is www.pamelakeene.com.