Larriland Farm is perfect. The "pick-your-own" farm west of Columbia is an adventure, but it's run so smoothly that you're guaranteed to have a good time. It feels personal and family-run, yet professional as well. Fruits and vegetables abound. Prices are reasonable. The fields are clean, well-marked and outfitted with stands so that you can pay in the fields -- crucial if you're traveling with kids and don't want to get in and out of the car an extra time. But, if you can stop, definitely shop in the Red Barn where you can buy any of the active produce, along with cheeses, jams, candies and honeys.
On Saturday, we picked eight pounds of blueberries with family and harvested two giant flower arrangements for $7.50 each. You could have also picked plums, raspberries or beets. Mrs. HowChow and I will return in August when we'll fill the car with peaches and blackberries. The thornless blackberries are a pleasure. Seven-foot-tall plants in long rows, each laden with sweet berries and none of the prickers from my childhood picking. This is a flavor of summer that doesn't survive when you try to ship it. We fill trays, and we eat them by hand or pureed
into a cinnamon-blackberry ice cream.
Then, we'll go back again in October. This is the perfect Halloween adventure, especially if you can bring a kid along. Pick apples. Pick your own pumpkin. Shop in the barn store (especially for the dried fruit candy). Take a hayride and send toddlers through a maze made from hay bales. On a crisp day, there isn't a more beautiful place in the world.
Pick-your-own runs from late May or early June when the strawberries ripen until the first weekend in November. There are multiple varieties of many fruits -- plums, peaches, strawberries, etc. -- so the seasons stretch over weeks or even months. Check out the Web site, which lists the products and predicts when they'll be available. Then call Larriland's (410-442-2605) to find out what they have today. It's a recorded line, updated daily.
(Update: In August, Larriland offers peaches and blackberries that can't be beat.)
If you like farm-fresh produce but can't get out to Woodbine, then check out the Columbia farmers markets where the farmers will come to you. Or if you're going to Larriland on the weekend, check out the Saturday farmers market on Rte 97 or watch for signs on Rte 32 for Jenny's Market -- a family-run produce stand just off Rte 32.
2415 Woodbine Road
Woodbine, MD 21797
NEAR: This is off I-70 west of Rte 32. Take I-70 West to Exit 73. Turn left at the end of the exit ramp. Then follow that road through a circle and then along a road of farms and new developments. Larriland is on the left, although there are some fields across the road.