By Bobbie Whitehead
Folks wanting bright red, sweet and “enormous” strawberries only had to spend about 15 minutes to pick 11 pounds of strawberries at Williams Strawberry Farm in Camden County, N.C.
That’s how plentiful the 2010 fields are.
During opening week at Williams Strawberry Farm, people gathered to buy or pick their first strawberries of the season.
“We had an extremely good week,” said Frank Williams, who’s grown strawberries for 22 years. “Last year was such a weak year that this year we’re pleased that it seems to be an extremely good year so far.”
Many know Williams’ farm for always having clean fields and big, sweet berries, and they weren’t disappointed during the farm’s first week open at the end of April.
“The first week was unusual,” said Judy Old, Williams Strawberry Farm manager. “It looked like our peak season as soon as we opened. The season so far has been bountiful and phenomenal.”
Most pick-your-own operations as well as already-picked markets opened for business the last week of April. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reports that “warmer-than-normal weather” encouraged blooms to develop sooner. With the early blooming, most state growers, the NCDACS reports, expect “a larger crop this season.”
In Eastern North Carolina, operations had strawberries to pick by April 15, and western growers will have plenty by May 1, state agricultural officials say.
“North Carolina ranks fourth in the nation in strawberry production,” the NCDACS reports. “Berry sales generated more than $20 million in farm receipts in 2008.”
In Southeastern Virginia, many pick-your-own fields announced their opening the last week of April. At the Horton Family Farm in Windsor, Va., which sells pre-picked strawberries only, people can call to order or visit the farm to buy strawberries.
“The strawberries look beautiful and big,” said David Horton, owner. “They’re getting ripe because of the warm weather, and they’re kind of big this year.”
Another Southeastern Virginia strawberry field, Faith Farms in Suffolk opened in late April, too. Ryan Williams, owner, offers pick your own and pre-picked strawberries and said the strawberries are big.
Lilley Farms in North Suffolk operates two pick-your-own strawberry fields open every day. Lilley also has standing strawberry people cut outs for photographing pictures and offers a children’s pack for $5 that includes a two-quart berry basket and an educational booklet about strawberries, according to the Carolyn Lilley, one of Lilley Farms’ partners. Customers bringing a pre-purchased bucket can receive a 50-cent discount.
Picking the Strawberry
How exactly should you pick a strawberry? When visiting a strawberry farm, customers can harvest “the berries carefully by the stems just above the caps to prevent bruising,” write Diane Relf, horticulture extension specialist, and Jerry Williams, associate professor of Virginia Tech, in the article “Small Fruit in the Home Garden.”
Consumers should also leave the cap when picking.