It’s that time of year again – grape picking time or “The Big Pick,” as it has been named by county officials.
Eight years ago, and in the years before, when grapes ripened at the Guilford County Prison Farm in eastern Guilford County, there were plenty of inmates to do that work. However, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners shut down the Prison Farm in 2015, and now, each year, the county seeks volunteers to pick those grapes.
Much of the 800 acres of land is now a county park and the Parks Department is seeking volunteers to take part in the annual Big Pick at the Guilford County Farm at 7315 Howerton Road in Gibsonville.
This year, the event will take place on two Saturdays – September 24 and October 1, from 9 a.m. to noon.
Everyone is invited. However, minors have to be accompanied by an adult, and registration is required prior to the event.
For years when the Prison Farm was still a prison farm, the grapes where used to make Jailhouse Jelly, which, understandably, some people were reluctant to eat despite being quite tasty.
This year, the harvested grapes will be donated to local food banks, shelters, and kitchens to provide food for people in need.
Guilford County Passive Parks Supervisor John Gladstone said that coming out and helping pick the grapes will be offering a real service and he wants to see even more volunteers this year.
“This is a unique hands-on volunteer experience that benefits low-income families that lack access to sustainable nutrition,” Gladstone said. “Last year we were able to harvest and donate nearly 1,200 pounds to organizations that then distributed the grapes to nearly 500 families. We want to make a bigger impact this year.”
The three-acre vineyard on the farm contains 18 rows of Red Muscadine vines that each year produce thousands of pounds of grapes.
Volunteers should bring a water bottle and sunscreen to the Big Pick and wear clothes and shoes suitable for walking in open fields. Gloves are also recommended.