Hail could spoil season for U-pick raspberry farm in Mora County

September 16, 2018

Before all hail broke loose, things were looking good at La Cueva Farm’s U Pick It fields.

Following four hailstorms in the past two months that ravaged the Mora County farm’s 6 acres of raspberries, a popular draw for locals this time of year, the farm is closed and the outlook for opening this season isn’t good, manager Sharmy Brownlee said.

“It set us back quite a bit,” she said. “And it almost completely demolished us. We are nowhere ready for the U-pick season. We are not even sure there will be one this year.”

Customers who stop by the historic farm for a day of berry picking are at first disappointed when they discover the raspberry fields are closed, Brownlee said. But, she added, “We still have our raspberry sundaes, and they are happy about that.”

The 2,000-acre farm, designated a National Historic Site with its 19th-century church, hacienda and grist mill, previously was called the Salman Raspberry Ranch. In 2016, after being in the Salman-Koenig family for decades, it was sold to G. Hughes Abell of Austin, Texas. The property also has a nursery, store and cafe.

“Before the bad storms,” Brownlee said, “they came up pretty tall, and it bent them down to almost ground level.”

Now, she said, some small raspberries are ripening in the fields, and if the farm can avoid a hard freeze before October, there’s still a chance for a U-pick season.

She advises berry lovers to check La Cueva Farm’s website, www.lacuevafarm.com, for updates on whether berries are available.

The berries sell for $4.50 a pint or $54 a flat.

PickYourOwn.org, a website that provides local listings of farms in the U.S. and other countries, recommends berry pickers choose only fully ripe berries that have a plump feel — soft but firm. Don’t try to pack berries down, the site says. Instead, put them in a wide collection container, filling it no more than a few berries deep.

Holding the stem with one hand and plucking them with the other is the best way to pick a berry.

The site also recommends refrigerating berries immediately after picking them and waiting to wash berries until they’re ready for consumption.

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