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By Shawn Raymundo

Spring has arrived, which means it’s strawberry season.

The Ecology Center recently launched its new U-Pick Strawberries days in San Juan Capistrano, allowing the local community to hand-pick and purchase fresh strawberries from its farm.

For $4 a pound, guests are welcome to pick out strawberries from the patch, in addition to enjoying music, workshops and cooking demos over the weekends.

“Our mission is to open the doors of this beautiful farm and build a community around it, such that we can nourish our community,” said Evan Marks, the Ecology Center’s executive director.

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The center, which officially started the endeavor in late March, will continue the U-Pick Strawberries days every weekend from now until strawberry season ends, which should be around mid-summer after it gets too hot, Marks said.

However, he said, that doesn’t mean the U-Pick program will end.

Strawberry season will “end, but part of the future vision of this farm is there’s a community experience happening every day,” Marks said, adding, “While it’s strawberries now, it might be apples the next season, so that’s part of the future matrix of the planting . . . building community around the agriculture.”

Marks also noted that after strawberry season, it’ll be time for the Ecology Center and community to celebrate tomatoes and peppers.

During the first weekend of the U-Pick Days, Marks said, the Ecology Center drew about 2,000 visitors. He said the Center is really grateful for the turnout and support the community has shown, not only this endeavor, but for the farm in general.

“People are responding well to it, so we’re grateful,” he said.

U-Pick Strawberries days is open Fridays and Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sundays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Visitors can also purchase produce daily from the Ecology Center Farm Stand, which is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The Ecology Center is located at 32701 Alipaz St., San Juan Capistrano.

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