Special thanks to G&S Farms in Brentwood for sponsoring our post about cherry-picking. Read on to learn where to go, what to bring, and other important social distancing information about Brentwood’s cherry farms.
2021 update: The pandemic introduced the idea of reservations for U-Pick activities. G&S Farms invites both reservations and walk-ins for 2021.
Timing is everything when it comes to cherry-picking, so we are grateful for the partnership of G & S Farms this year, to help us stay on top of the short season.
G&S Farms is a third-generation family farm specializing in corn and cherries in the Brentwood farming region. Every May, they welcome local Bay Area families into their orchards for fresh cherry u-picking. The family-owned farms of Brentwood are looking forward to another beautiful, fruit-filled cherry picking season and are thrilled to share it with visitors from near and far. The perfect combination of sweet, fresh cherries, and a beautiful sunny day in the country is something G&S truly loves sharing and hopes you will too!
We’ve put together a few tips for the most frequently asked questions about Cherry Picking in Brentwood.
When can we pick cherries in California?
Brentwood Cherry Season typically opens in early May and extends through mid-June. Each season will bring slight deviations based on the weather and crop size.
G&S Farms opened for 2021 on Thursday, May 6. Cherry-picking will be hosted at four different G&S Farms locations, each with different varieties.
Please take note of other changes to the G&S cherry-picking traditions.
- The Packing Shed Orchard at 2490 Sellers Ave is appointment only for those who feel more comfortable with appointments. When booking an appointment you will be required to pay a $3.50 reservation fee per person which will be deducted from your final total after picking. In other words, you need to pick a minimum of $14 of cherries for a family of 4. They will not provide refunds for no-shows or for totals that come in under the reservation fees.
- The other orchards are walk-in only
- The orchard requires that you wear a mask while on the property.
- They will be offering hand sanitizer/wash stations and encouraging everyone to use it when they enter and exit the farm.
- They highly suggest the use of contactless payment if possible or provide exact change to limit contact with the employees.
- Groups of more than 10 may not book an appointment and enter together. Please visit the G&S website to see the rest of the rules regarding buckets, personal items, and safety.
Orchards typically open between 8am and 9am and will usually close between 3pm and 5pm, or until ripe fruit is picked over. For most families, especially those with young children, it’s ideal to go early to avoid crowds and the afternoon heat.
Typically farms are closed on the weekdays, saving the ripe fruit for weekend visitors.
How do I get to the cherry-picking farms?
Brentwood is located about an hour east of Berkeley. Most of you will travel Highway 24 to Highway 680 to Highway 4, while those further South may travel Highway 580 to Vasco Road. Both routes will intersect at Marsh Creek Road in Brentwood. This is one of the main arteries through the growing region. Traveling East on Marsh Creek Road will bring you to Walnut Blvd. If you head Northbound, you’ll enter the heart of Brentwood’s U-Pick orchards.
There are 23 U-Pick orchards throughout Brentwood. If you’re looking for a specific orchard, visit Harvest Time in Brentwood. Download their Harvest Time Farm Trails map and mobile app (available for iOS and Android devices).
Which U-pick farms are open?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions on our Facebook page. It is very difficult to share this information as the farms decide on their open/closed status based on the fickle nature of fruit availability, and make their decisions just days in advance.
We suggest clicking through to the Facebook pages of each of these farms right before you head out. Sometimes they intend to open and then declare themselves “picked out” by noon! They seem to update on Facebook.
Throughout May, we will update this list with any known openings and closings. Most of the farms are clustered around Sellers Ave in Brentwood.
- 5 Star Cherries (anticipated opening mid-May)
- G&S Farms (Four locations: 409 Sellers Ave Brentwood open now)
- Maggiore Cherry Ranch (four locations, Walnut Blvd is currently taking reservations)
- Mike’s U-Pick – two locations in Brentwood (anticipated opening May 22)
- Nunn Better U-Pick Farm (open now!)
- RC U-Pick Cherries (Open May 8 & 9)
- Seko Ranch (anticipated opening May 14)
- Freitas Cherry Ranch
What to bring on your cherry-picking adventure:
Cash. Not only for cherries but enough for the other delicious fruits you’ll stumble across – apricots, peaches, etc. Many of the farms are usually cash-only.
Hat. The Bay Area’s summer marine layer doesn’t push into Brentwood, so you can expect sunny weather the majority of the time. Sunscreen is also a good idea.
Ice Chest. If you plan to extend your stay in Brentwood or the surrounding area, it’s a good idea to place your fruit in a chilled environment. On an average 85-degree day, car temperatures can exceed 130 degrees after an hour. If not bringing an ice chest, bring a box, large tote or another container to bring your fruit home in. Note that for safety, you may have to leave your ice chest in the car.
Closed-toe shoes. Leave the sandals at home and bring a pair of old sneakers. This is especially important for small children. They’ll be walking in dirt with potential hidden dangers (rocks, pits, etc).
Water. While Brentwood is filled with shopping and restaurant options, there are limited opportunities to find water in the immediate growing region. Afternoon temperatures can often exceed 95 degrees in late May and you’ll want your family hydrated and refreshed to enjoy the experience of picking fruit together.
Special for COVID-era
- Face-covering masks or bandana.
- Gloves, disposable or garden gloves.
- Step stool (farms may not be providing ladders, so it is BYO if you want to reach the higher-hanging fruit!)
- Credit card or smartphone with touchless payment
How do I tell which cherries are ripe?
For the majority of cherries in Brentwood, you’ll be looking for a deep red color. Rainier cherries, a popular late variety usually available around Memorial Day Weekend, will be yellow with blush tones. For any cherry, you’ll want to pick them when they’re firm but just tender enough to easily bite. Cherries will not continue to ripen once picked, so be careful not to fill your bucket with unripe fruit. If you’re not sure, you are always welcome to sample a cherry or two.
Keep stems on cherries. Once a stem is removed, the shelf life of a cherry will drastically diminish. By keeping your cherries cool with the stem attached, you can expect your cherries to remain at their peak freshness for 3-5 days.
Critical, must-read, very important tip for cherry pickers:
Call ahead or check the Facebook pages of the orchards. Although growers strive to update their websites, availability is always subject to change.
If you have a favorite farm, please be sure to call ahead before loading everyone into the car. Should we say it one more time? Call ahead.
Watch for traffic. Thousands of families will visit Brentwood this spring to pick cherries. This means a lot of traffic on mainly one-lane country roads. Always keep an eye out for drivers who may be in a rush.
Thanks to G&S Farms for sponsoring our annual Cherry Picking guide!
Their hours are 9 am – 4 pm – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (and Memorial Day). You’ll find them in four locations: