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Cherries, blueberries ripe for the picking

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Cherries, blueberries ripe for the picking

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POSTED May 26, 2012 1:26 a.m.

LIVINGSTON — Life can be sweet — especially if you grow cherries. Cindy Lashbrook has been growing cherries and blueberries on her Livingston organic farm since 1987.

“When we first bought here, it was 29 acres of all almonds,” Lashbrook said while looking out over her trees and bushels at Riverdance Farms.

She decided to plant cherries and blueberries, instead of almond trees because at the time berries were an expanding niche market and the soil on her farm, located next to the Merced River, was really good for it. Today, Riverdance Farms organically grows three types of cherries — Brooks, Bing and Royal Rainier — along with Early Blue Northern High Bush blueberries. All the berries at Riverdance Farms are sweet tasting and ready to eat.

Memorial Day weekend begins a busy time for Riverdance Farms — you-pick season. From Memorial Day weekend through Father’s Day, the Merced County farm allows visitors to come and pick their fill of fresh berries. Call ahead reservations are needed for individual picking, but coming up on June 2-3 the farm will be highlighted at the annual Pick and Gather at Riverdance Farms and Merced River Fair event.

This annual event gives Valley residents and visitors the chance to get out on farm and learn about the local ecosystem. There will be workshops throughout the weekend, including presentations on hedgerows, native plants and native bees. Down at Merced River Fair there will be demonstrations of river monitoring, and the chance to observe native animals.

The event will also celebrate the area’s two State Parks on the Merced River. McConnell State Recreation Area is across the river from the farm and festival. George J. Hatfield is further west, just as the Merced River joins the San Joaquin River. These Parks remain open this year due to funds raised through the festival’s main sponsor, the East Merced Resource Conservation District. Proceeds from this festival will go toward year two of the Save our River Parks campaign.

To get a better look at the river, kayak excursions will be offered one each day. The trips are three hour guided tours down the Merced River that end back at the festival.

Along with farm and river events, the festival will also feature storytelling, local artisans, live music, children’s activities, hay rides wine and beer tasting and an organic breakfast prepared by Chef Jorge Trinchan. Overnight camping will be available at the farm on June 2 for $10.

The food offered at the festival will all be from local sources, many organic growers and mostly healthy.

“It’s not your typical fair food,” said Lashbrook.

The events at the festival are also very hands-on, instead of the typical vendor booths at many other events.

“We want people to get in there and learn something or make something to take home,” Lashbrook said.

 

KRISTINA HACKER

209 staff reporter

 

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