Cherries, berries and more all around the Yakima Valley
It’s a delicious time of year in the Yakima Valley! Beginning with asparagus, cherries, berries and apricots, more than 3,000 local farms fill the bins at farm stands and farmers markets all around the valley from May through October.
When cherry season finally arrives, it comes quick and lasts only a short time, drawing visitors from all over the region and even overseas. That’s why you’ll find parked cars lining the orchard roads at valley u-pick farms and a festive feeling in the orchards full of cherry lovers filling buckets with hand-picked treasure. Washington Fruit Place is a local hot spot for cherry u-pick adventures with just one more weekend to pick, July 7, 8 and 9. You’ll still find just-picked local cherries at farm stands and farmers markets for a short while longer.
Read on below to see what makes Washington Fruit Place such a local favorite family farm.
Washington Fruit Place is far more than a farm stand. Sixth-generation fruit growers, Mark and Cheryl Barrett, harvest cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, apples and pears in carefully tended orchards that have been in the family for years. You can pick up tree-ripened fruit at “The Big Red Barn,” their quaint produce and gift shop that also offers a wide array of décor, locally made ice cream, candles, artisan foods, cheeses and more.
As a sixth-generation farming family, what do your agricultural roots here in the valley mean to You?
My great grandfather, William Barrett, came west to homestead in Selah Heights in the early 1900s and had to water his fruit trees with buckets of water with a wagon and a team of horses to carry water up from the river. My grandfather, Lester Barrett, took a wagon and team of horses with other farmers to help build a dam at rimrock lake to help get a water reservoir to have water all summer. Fruit growing grows very deep into my family history and now I have grandsons working on our orchards and in the farm market. The desire to work the land and raise a God fearing family runs to our very roots. There is nothing better.
What is it about the valley that makes it such a great place to grow such an amazing array of fruits?
The rich volcanic soil, the four seasons, the 300+ days of sunshine and the abundant water from the Cascades are a farmer’s delight. Add that the Yakima Valley’s agricultural history and crops rich with diversity in all the fruits, vegetables, hops, vineyards and so much more. It is a farming culture unlike most anywhere else.
What inspired you to create your lovely farm market experience?
My wife Cheryl and I decided more than 20 years ago that our farm could only be sustainable by either going bigger or selling directly to the consumer. We chose the latter because it’s more rewarding. We traveled farm markets across the Okanagan Valley of Canada to build ideas and dreams, then implemented those ideas. Cheryl was manager of the gift shop at the Washington Fruit Commission and we decided we need not only products showcasing the Yakima Valley and the state of Washington, but we also needed to help educate them on the farm and at our farm. We built the barn, the interpretive trail and u-pick cherries to create that. Cheryl runs the gift shop and Mark runs the orchards. It seems to work!
How far and wide do you see visitors coming from? What is it about the experience that draws them? What do they take away from it?
We have visitors come from literally all over the world, our u-pick draws a large Asian community that actually take their vacation to travel to us for u-pick. China, Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines and Japan are just some the places. We started with just a little 3-acre u-pick cherry farm, with only word of mouth. It has grown into more than 12 acres of cherries to accommodate the crowds. Cherries are like diamonds to the Asian community, as they are so expensive in their home countries and taste so good. They take pictures of their family picking fruit, coming back every year. Then they come back for our peaches, plums, nectarines, apples and pears. It’s all about the experience of being in an actual orchard, picking fruit taking it home sharing with their family and friends. We strive to make our gift shop a place where you don’t need to rush in and out but rather slow down a minute, enjoy an ice cream or a fresh fruit smoothie on the patio, a picnic lunch in the orchard or pick up some local foods made in the area (along, of course, with fresh Barrett Orchards fruit).
Find everything you want to know for farm-fresh fun and flavor in our guide to Yakima Valley farms and produce. Check out our round-up of u-pick farms all around the Yakima Valley, along with and farm stands in the upper Yakima Valley and lower valley.
Categorized in: Farm Fresh Fun