While the Yakima Valley is known for its hops, producing the majority of the crop in the United States, it’s also known for its other agricultural endeavors. The area is home to countless orchards, growing everything from apples and cherries to pears, along with a wide variety of vegetables.

The valley takes the crown as the leading producer for summer and winter squash and bell and chile peppers in Washington, along with leading the state in growing apples, with nearly 70,000 acres of orchards as of 2017. With those trophies, farmers in the Yakima Valley certainly know their produce.

Driving throughout the surrounding farmland, you’ll be able to spot all of the tree fruit orchards and hop bines, soaking in the beauty of the valley’s agricultural heritage. And while an afternoon is well-spent driving through farmland enjoying the scenery, it’s even better if you can stop to experience picking fruit and vegetables on your own.

The Yakima Valley is home to a number of U-Pick farms. These valley gems welcome curious families onto their property to walk through their fields or orchards and pick produce to take home.

Making a day of visiting U-Pick farms makes for a lovely outing, but it also offers educational moments, teaching kids where the food on their dinner plate is coming from. Once you arrive at a farm, be sure to ask for specifics if you’ve never been there. Often, there may be certain produce types that aren’t available just yet, and the farm may have specific guidelines set up to make your picking experience all the better.

Given the current pandemic situation, this is an ideal activity for families to get out, enjoy the fresh air, learn about agriculture and take home a few healthy treats to incorporate into dinner or dessert along the way.

Here are a few U-Pick stops that are open now:

West Valley U-Pick

Tucked away in West Valley at 11901 Zier Road, West Valley U-Pick offers abundant opportunities to gather fresh produce, just on the outskirts of town. The Showalter family took over the property in 2017, planting seven of their 10 acres with a variety of fruits and vegetables and opening up their home for others to enjoy.

Visitors to West Valley U-Pick can find cherries and blueberries to pick early in the summer season. In late summer, as the season shifts toward fall, the property is beaming with vegetables — zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and plenty of varieties of tomatoes and peppers. Toward October, giant pumpkins can be selected and harvested from their patch. One guest even pulled a 52-pound pumpkin from the patch in 2018.

This small farm is certainly known for its U-Pick cherries, typically selling out within a few days of opening the cherry-picking season, but it’s also well-known for picking apples. Several varieties of apples can be found ripe for the picking in fall, and you can even use an old-fashioned wooden cider press to make your own apple cider right after picking.

While you’re visiting, don’t forget to say hello to the many cats, bunnies and ducks who also call this beautiful property home.

Bill’s Berry Farm

Located in Grandview at 3674 N. County Line Road, Bill’s Berry Farm is a spot where visitors could easily spend an entire day exploring. Bill and Julie Michener and their family began farming the property in 1994, and as Bill was a second-generation orchardist in the valley, he knew a thing or two about growing produce.

The farm offers acres of apple, pear and peach orchards, along with cherries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Later in the season, pumpkins, squash and gourds can be found as well.

Bill’s hosts the opportunity for picking fresh produce, with a tractor hayride to take you out into the orchards. There are a few farm animals to meet on-site, including goats and chickens, and food is available for sale on certain days, offering the opportunity for a picnic on the lawn after a morning of produce picking.

And if you choose to stay for lunch, be sure not to skip out on the freshly made fruit doughnuts.

Krueger Pepper Gardens

The Krueger family has been farming in the Yakima Valley since 1937, opening their farm stand and U-Pick farm in 1968. Located at 462 Knights Lane in Wapato, the 100-acre farm offers something for every veggie lover.

Krueger Pepper Gardens is known for peppers, producing more than 100 varieties of sweet and hot peppers including the typical green and red bells. But anyone looking for specialties such as the extremely hot Carolina Reaper or Ghost Peppers can find those varieties on-site as well.

Visitors to the fields can walk through the rows of pepper plants and pick the varieties they wish to take home. Some visitors even travel from across the state to visit Krueger Peppers to pick peppers for salsas or sauces they make in large batches.

Other vegetables such as squash, eggplant, onions and tomatoes are available for picking as well, in addition to large selection of already picked options at the farm stand.