Bad apples alter U-pick scene

07/15/2010 12:00 AM |

Robert Guidice and his daughter Michelle, 4, spent the day picking cherries at Wickham

Even though it has become a mainstay of North Fork tourism, U-pick harvesting has been a cause for angst among farmers, who say there’s always someone looking for a free bunch of strawberries, raspberries, apples or peaches.

“People are slick,” said Patty DiVello, owner of Patty’s Berries in Mattituck. “They’ll come into the berry patch and just snack on the berries without paying … I’ve even seen people run across the road from the patch, stash their berries in a bag, then come back with an empty basket and pretend they don’t want anything!”

A breakdown in trust has prompted farmers to devise ways to stop the sneaks.

“This year I’ve instituted something totally new,” said Gekee Wickham, co-owner of Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cut