With the 80th annual Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival coming up this weekend in Portland, you know it must be time, or almost time, for picking your own strawberries at area farms.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you that picking your own berries is cheaper than buying the ones at your grocery store, but there is nothing quite like a freshly picked berry, and of course the experience of picking has to account for something.

Strawberry picking is a perfect outing with children (especially citified children), not only to let them see where their food comes from, but to enjoy the tasty experience of sampling along the way. (Most of the farms encourage that kind of sweet snacking in the rows as you pick.)

“We’ve got a good-looking crop. It is better than last year,” said Jon Kelley, whose three-generation Kelley’s Berry Farm is one of the first Midstate farms to open for self-picking. “A lot of people have been out, a lot of families,” he said, adding that the berries should hold out through May this year.

Kelley’s farm also offers blueberry and blackberry picking starting in the middle of June and running through July.

A few things to know about picking your own berries include: calling the farm ahead to be sure it is open and has berries for you to pick; wear boots because the rows may be muddy; and check the websites for picking details. And, of course, go hungry and enjoy the experience!

Here are some Midstate farms where you can pick your own berries in the coming weeks:

• Kelley’s Berry Farm in Castalian Springs on Highway 231 north of Lebanon has 10 acres of strawberries, and the picking has started. The fields are open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday until the berries are gone.

Contact: 615-633-7447

• Batey Farms has started strawberry picking at its farm at 5331 Baker Road in Murfreesboro. U-Pick hours vary so check in before you go.

Contact: 629-772-3900 or bateyfarms.com

• Bradley Kountry Acres, 650 Jake Link Road in Cottontown, is not quite ready. The farm voicemail says the crop is running late and to check back to see when picking will begin.

Contact: 615-325-2836 or email cathy@bradleykountry-acres.com

• McCraw’s Strawberry Ranch, at 2385 Rossview Road in Clarksville, is hoping for a good season, but owners there say the berries are “a little late coming in.” Call or check Facebook for updates.

Contact: 931-647-0187 or see McCraw’s Strawberry Ranch on Facebook

• Delvin Farms, 6361 Cox Road in College Grove, has a strawberry patch that should be open for U-Pick soon. Its Facebook page says, “ ‘So when can we come pick?’ you ask. Probably the first week of May. Berry ripening is a little behind .. but they are coming.”

Contact: 615-538-5538 or see wwwdelvinfarms.com or check Delvin Farms on Facebook

The www.picktnproducts.org site has a full listing of Tennessee farms that offer pick-your-own options by region and then by county.

Mary Hance, who has four decades of journalism experience in the Nashville area, writes a weekly Ms. Cheap column. She also appears on Thursdays on “Talk of the Town” on NewsChannel 5. Reach her at mscheap@mainstreetmediatn.com and follow her on Facebook as Facebook.com/mscheap.

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