It's berry-picking season, y'all. Strawberry season is at its tail end, with blackberries and blueberries due to take over from late May through July. Peaches will also make their debut in June.
Many local family farms offer pick-your-own visits, which naturally allow for social distancing (and are highly Instagrammable). Some also have family-friendly attractions, such as petting zoos. Below are five spots within a 90-minute drive from central Austin.
1. Chickamaw Organic Farm & Ranch, Bastrop
This Bastrop family farm is the only certified biodynamic operation in Texas and offers a free pint to whoever finds the biggest blueberry of the season. In addition to berries, visitors can also purchase beef from the farm's grass-fed cows. Call ahead at 512-567-3456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment and get directions.
2. Jenschke Orchards, Fredericksburg
This Fredericksburg farm has been family-owned and operated since 1961 and offers pick-your-own harvests of strawberries through May, blackberries through June and more than 30 varieties of peaches through September. Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Address: 8301 E. Hwy. 290, Fredericksburg. More information can be found here.
3. Omi's Blackberry Farm, Paige
This family-run farm in Paige grows pesticide-, herbicide- and insecticide-free blackberries. Although the winter storm damaged some of its earliest producing varieties, Omi's expects to open for picking around mid-May. Blackberries cost $3.50 per pound if paying by cash and $3.60 if credit. Address: 2548 E. Hwy. 21, Paige. More information can be found here.
4. Sweet Berry Farm, Marble Falls
This Marble Falls farm offers strawberry picking through mid-May, as well as other family-friendly activities include pony rides, sand art, goat feeding and a barrel train. There are also picnic tables on site, where visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch. No pets allowed. Strawberries are $2.99 per pound, plus $0.75 for the picking box, which holds up to eight pounds. Hours: Mon.-Tues. 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sun. 1-5 p.m. Address: 1801 FM 1980, Marble Falls. More information can be found here.
5. Sweet Eats Fruit Farm, Georgetown
This Georgetown adventure farm has a limited amount of strawberries still available to pick, plus a full schedule of pony rides, pig races, a petting zoo and apple slingshots. No pets allowed. Strawberries are $3.50 a pound. If visitors wish to do other activities besides pick fruit, a general admission ticket costs $13.99. (Children under 2 get in free.) Hours: Mon.-Sun. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Address: 14440 E. Hwy. 290, Georgetown. More information can be found here.
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For years Austin has been one of the top 5 places to live in the U.S., according to an annual ranking from U.S. News and World Report. But this year, Austin dropped out of the top 10.
The publication ranked Austin at No. 13, down from No. 5 last year, No. 3 in 2020 and No. 1 in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Cities ranking in the top this year were No. 1 Huntsville, Alabama, No. 2 Colorado Springs and No. 3 Green Bay, Wisconsin.
So why did it rank lower this year?
The hot housing market is part of the reason. The report states "Austin offers a lower value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income."
Still, Austin was the highest-ranked Texas city on the list. Adding to its desirability are its live music capital roots and the growing tech scene. The next Texas area on the list was Dallas-Fort Worth coming in at No. 32.
U.S. News says it analyzed 150 metro areas in the U.S. to make the list based on the quality of life, the job market, the value of living there and people's desire to live there.
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Austin parents and grocery store shelves are feeling the effects of a nationwide baby formula shortage.
Caused mostly by a February recall due to contamination issues, followed by the Abbott Nutrition factory closure in Michigan, the shortage has left Austin shelves barren. However, earlier this week, U.S. officials announced a plan with the facility to restart production.
In the meantime, local parents in crisis have turned toward the Mother’s Milk Bank to keep their babies fed.
HEB on East 7th has been picked clean of formula and is limiting purchases. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
The milk bank—which takes donations from lactating mothers and dispenses milk to babies in the NICU—has been helping feed upwards of 30 families in need as the formula supply tightens.
According to the bank’s executive director Kim Updegrove, Mother’s Milk Bank has seen an uptick in calls from parents with healthy babies in need of help since the shortage began.
“We aren't used to hearing from families with healthy infants,” Updegrove said. “They're typically very upset, angry, frustrated, sobbing—it's scary to not be able to feed your infants. So in the past few weeks, those calls have been significantly increasing.”
Mothers are only able to donate if they are within a year postpartum, so Updegrove said they are constantly bringing on and retiring donors. While donors had been on a 30% decline leftover from 2021 when the shortage began, Updegrove said the shortage has led to mass community interest and more than 90 prospective donors in just the past few days.
“We and other milk banks are experiencing significant interest from the community—becoming milk donors and helping to turn around this crisis,” Updegrove said. “Every infant needs to be fed, every one of us can relate to that need, and we need to make sure as a community that it happens.”
Whole Foods downtown was also cleaned out of typical formula. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
While you may still be able to find formula at places like Whole Foods—which currently has goat milk, soy and plant-based formula in stock—Updegrove said it might not be what a baby needs.
Updegrove said it is best to buy types that say “infant formula,” as they are FDA approved and will provide the nutrients, vitamins and minerals a baby needs. Plant-based, homemade, non-cow's milk or diluting formula may not provide the same nutritional value.
As the community navigates the shortage, Updegrove said the most important way to help out is to not panic buy or stockpile.
“This is a crisis for families,” Updegrove said. “This is the time for the community to gather together and figure out what everyone can do to help families with young infants.”