Wisconsin is well-known as being one of the largest providers of dairy and agricultural products in the country. In fact, Wisconsin produces more cheese than any other state in America—accounting for nearly a fourth of all cheese production. This beautiful state also ranks pretty high in the total output of a large variety of agricultural items, including cranberries, ginseng, oats, sweet corn, potatoes, and a heck of a lot more. License plates here in Wisconsin still have the phrase “America’s Dairyland” on them. In short, Wisconsin is an excellent place for farming. That means residents and visitors alike get to enjoy plenty of fantastic pick-your-own-fruit, or “U-Pick,” farms!
In this article, we’ll be covering some of the best U-Pick farms here in the state. These farms share a lot of commonalities, as they all allow you to pick your own fruits, but each provides their own unique flair. We’ve done our best to outline the distinctions between them, but the best way to learn about these lovely farms is to check them out! Visiting a U-Pick farm is an excellent activity to experience with your family, significant other, friends, or even by yourself.
1. U-pick Strawberry Farm – DeForest
U Pick Strawberry Farm is a small and humble farm that has a lot to offer. It’s entirely family-owned and operated, and the environment is very peaceful and family-friendly. As their name implies, you can pick (or have them pick) strawberries to your heart’s content! However, you can also grab a wide variety of different vegetables and crops while you’re there as well! They sell corn, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, peas, green peppers, red peppers, orange peppers, yellow peppers, and pumpkins!
Aside from their delicious and fresh crop options, U Pick Strawberry Farm hosts a wide variety of events, including a Corn Maze, Pumpkin Patch, Petting Zoo, tours, and festivals. They also provide a ton of family-friendly activities, from Giant Connect Four (which sounds fun as an adult) and Pumpkin Bowling to Pedal Racing and a Farm Scene Investigation game. U Pick Strawberry Farm is a great place to check out, whether you’re looking for delicious strawberries or looking for a local farm to pick up fresh vegetables!
2. Basse’s Taste of Country – Colgate
Basse’s Taste of Country is a large family-run and owned farm located in Colgate, WI. The farm is run by the Basse family, which started it in 2000 after running a similar operation in Muskego in the 90s. They offer U-Pick services for three berries and also sell pre-picked vegetables and fruits. U-Pick includes three different berry options, each corresponding to the berry’s specific season. Strawberries are pickable in June, and both raspberries and blackberries are available in July. They’re also planning on starting a U-Pick Apple Orchard this 2020. Although they are still hesitant to say if the apple picking will be available this year—it entirely depends on their apple production.
When it comes to attractions, Basse’s Taste of Country has plenty to offer. Every Fall, from September to October, they host a Fall Fest that has a mountain of things to do. The festival has a “De Scheier” Beer Barn, where you can try several different craft beers, a paved cart racing track, a Hoop n’ Holler basketball shootout game, animal petting barn, and plenty of family-friendly games for people of all ages. Aside from the Fall Fest, each year is packed full of different events, including a Pumpkin Princess Pageant, Super Hero Contest, Pig Races, Dog Show, Candy Cannon, Exotic Animal show, and much more! We highly recommend checking out Basse’s Taste of Country, it has a little something for everyone!
3. Thompson Strawberry Farm – Bristol
The Thompson Strawberry Farm, located in Bristol, has a rich history of growing strawberries in the county area. Owned by the Thompson family, the farm has had a U-Pick option for over 50 years and has been in operation for more than 70 years. Now run by the 4th generation of Thompson’s, the farm operates 100 acres in total, with 20 acres explicitly dedicated to strawberries. Strawberry picking typically begins anywhere between mid-June and July 4th, depending on the weather. They also offer raspberry and pumpkin picking as well! Before coming to pick, you can even check the current status of the berry conditions with their “Today on the Farm” section on their home page—a certainly unique aspect among U-Pick farms.
The Thompson Strawberry Farm is less focused on providing showy events than delivering delicious and fresh berries every year. So, if you’re simply looking for a farm that offers U-Pick services in a peaceful environment, this farm is an excellent option.
4. Barthel Fruit Farm – Mequon
Barthel Fruit Farm offers strawberries and sugar snap peas in the summer, with apples, pears, plums, and pumpkins available in the fall. Strawberry picking typically begins in mid-June and lasts up to four weeks. Apple picking starts in early September and goes through November. Aside from offering fresh crops, the Barthel Fruit Farm has a lovely greenhouse that opens in May. The greenhouse holds perennials, herbs, annuals, succulents, vegetable plants, and more. They also opened a bakery in 2016, which cleverly incorporates whatever selection of fruits are ripe each season into the goods. Options in the bakery range from strawberry donuts and shortcake to apple streusel muffins and mini pumpkin cheesecakes.
History of the farm
Barthel Fruit Farm was established almost 182 years ago in Mequon, WI, by August Barthel. August and his family, who came to Mequon directly from Germany, primarily raised dairy animals. By 1956, the farm was producing a variety of agricultural products, including strawberries and other fruits. The farm was passed down through generations until 2019, when the previous owner, Bob Barthel, sold it to Jeff and Sue Knudsen. Sue worked at the farm from 12 years old to her college years away from Wisconsin. After marrying and moving back, Sue and Jeff now run the farm.
Though it’s no longer family-owned, we believe Bob Barthel left the farm in trusted and capable hands. Overall, the Barthel Fruit Farm is definitely a worthy entry on our list of the best U-Pick farms in Wisconsin!
5. Apple Barn Orchard & Winery – Elkhorn
The Apple Barn Orchard & Winery, located in Elkhorn, WI, boasts over 4,000 apple trees and 14 different apple variations. Apple varieties include McIntosh, Honey Crisp, and Jona Gold. They also grow pumpkins, peaches, strawberries, corn, soybeans, spearmint, peppermint, and alfalfa for local dairy farms. In addition to providing stellar agriculture products, the farm has a country store, bakery, and a winery. The country store sells apple cider, cheeses, baked goods, and more, while the bakery sells donuts and pies. Their large winery incorporates their homegrown fruits into delicious seasonal and year-round wines.
Similar to many U-Pick farms here in Wisconsin, Apple Barn Orchard & Winery has ties back to the early beginnings of the state. The farm was established in 1848 by Jacob and Maren Brensetre, who had recently immigrated from Oslo, Norway. After serving in the civil war, Jacobson (his adopted “American” surname) built a farmhouse and brick smokehouse, both of which are still standing today. The farm and homestead have remained with the family for over 150 years, now run by Steve and Judy Jacobson. The Apple Barn Orchard & Winery continues to provide delicious products and stellar services.
Other Pick-Your-Own Farms in Wisconsin
There are quite a few other pick-your-own farms here in Wisconsin, most of which are great at what they do and what they offer. This list consists of our five favorites, but that doesn’t mean other places aren’t worthy! Each U-Pick farm offers its own unique take, so be sure to check out some others if you can!