For a list of you-pick farms near the OKC metro, click here.
Oklahoma City metro kids certainly live in a sweet spot. The city offers plenty of urban attractions and excitement but Oklahoma's rich agricultural history is still very much alive on the outskirts. Several local farms open their barn doors each spring and summer to give city-dwellers an inside look at farm life.
Oklahoma Agritourism has coordinated a statewide effort this summer to help farm visitors get the most out of their rural experiences. Their new Jelly-Making Trails plot about 50 farms throughout the state where visitors can pick up locally-grown produce and make something special at home.
Jamie Cummings, the program administrator for Oklahoma Agritourism, said the Jelly-Making Trails were designed to promote you-pick farms and specialty crop farms throughout the state. The trails, funded by a specialty crop block grant, will direct travelers to farms selling pre-made items like jams, jellies and salsas using farm fresh produce as well as farms that provide experiences for visitors to pick produce themselves.
"You can't get any fresher than seeing it grow, picking it yourself and taking it home to make something with it," Cummings said. "We're providing two family experiences because we want families to pick the produce themselves then go home and spend time making something together."
Cummings said many parents today remember making jams and jellies with their grandparents, but that practice is quickly fading.
"What we hear each year is that the jelly-making crop is selling out fast because people want to get back to their roots," she said. "Not many people have a grandma anymore they've done that with. We're three generations plus from the farm lifestyle so they might not have seen their mom do that but they want to share it with their own kids."
In addition to being a fun outdoor activity, Cummings said she's excited to share the trail with families because it offers a chance for kids to better understand where food comes from and how hard farmers in our region work to grow items for people to eat.
Crestview Farms in northeast Edmond is open year-round and is on the Jelly-Making Trail. The organic farm grows a vast amount of vegetables and herbs in cool and warm weather and invites families to come pick their own blackberries each summer.
Susan Graff owns the farm and said she loves giving her guests a tour of the farm, letting them taste samples and meet the goats and chickens on the property. It's the same kind of experience Pati Colston desired for her own property in Mustang.
Colston is a clinical social worker who bought a farm in Mustang about eight years ago. She toured several berry farms throughout the state before deciding she wanted to open up her own farm to families.
"I have worked with kids for years so I was really excited about sharing that farm experience with families," Colston said. "I'd go on these other berry farms and it's just an incredible experience to feel so inspired by seeing where your food comes from and how friendly everyone is."
Colston's farm, Agape House Berry Farm, is on the Jelly-Making Trail and will be open to visitors for the first time this summer. In addition to picking blackberries, young visitors will enjoy a large sandbox and a tire fort.
"You just feel like you can take a deeper breath of air out here," Colston said of her farm. "I think it's so special for kids to be able to play in wide open spaces, hear the birds singing during the day and see the stars in the evening. It's so refreshing to be outside and it's important to know where your food comes from so we hope to provide all that to families."
Participating farms will have special crop stickers and jelly jar labels to give to families who want to purchase produce to cook with at home. Cummings is encouraging Jelly Trail travelers to use the hashtag #jellyismyjam on social media to track their trail experiences.
[Editor's Note: There are almost 50 farms on the Jelly-Making Trails, many of them within a couple hours of the Oklahoma City metro. For a map of the participating farms complete with contact information and addresses, visit www.oklahomaagritourism.com.]