Celebrating Locally Grown Strawberries in Lee County

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April to June marks the harvest time of one of our most beloved locally grown spring fruits: strawberries!

While most US strawberries are produced in California and Florida, North Carolina ranks amongst the other top states for strawberry production. North Carolina’s strawberry acreage spans across the state from the mountains to the coast, with most strawberry growers having less than 5 acres in production. In Lee County,Strawberries most of our strawberry growers run u-pick operations, where customers can venture out into strawberry fields to harvest their own fruit. Nothing compares to walking into a fragrant field full of these eye-catching fruits, picking your own strawberries by-hand, and enjoying the wonderful, sweet taste that comes when eating a fruit picked at peak ripeness. That is not something you can get at a grocery-store!

It might not surprise you that a lot of work goes into producing these fruits that we all crave this time of year. Growers start in late summer preparing for next year’s crop, checking and fertilizing their soil and making new planting beds. In October, new strawberry plants are added to the fields, after which they grow over the following months until December when they become dormant. As spring arrives, plants start to grow again and produce flowers that will eventually become fruit. With warm weather comes the challenge of managing late spring frosts, which can kill developing flowers and fruits. This crop is high cost for growers in labor and supplies but can produce high returns if managed effectively for weather and pests. Producing strawberries is definitely not for the faint of heart.

We are in peak strawberry harvest season and it’s time to celebrate our local strawberry growers in downtown Sanford with our 2nd annual Strawberry Jammin’ Event! This two-day event will showcase strawberry-themed treats, drinks, and activities offered by our local businesses, restaurants, boutiques, and farmers’ market. Friday night we will kick off the event with a concert by the Blackwater Band at Depot Park from 6:30-8:30 p.m., followed by a cocktail crawl at local breweries and restaurants. On Saturday morning, join us at the Sanford Farmers’ Market in the Buggy Factory parking lot (115 Chatham Street) from 8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. where our local strawberry growers will have baskets of berries to take home along with local bakers showcasing strawberry-baked goods. N.C. Cooperative Extension will be there as well with our blender bike, where you can hop on to get your morning workout while making a strawberry smoothie at the same time. And if the market isn’t enough to satisfy your strawberry fix, check out our Food Stroll map and visit participating local businesses and shops featuring strawberry products and more!

Finally, make sure to also visit our local strawberry u-picks this month! Our local strawberry u-picks are listed below, as well as in the Strawberry Jammin’ brochure.

Steve McNeil Farms 1621 Kentyrewood Farm Road            Sanford NC  27332

White Hill Farms                             5030 S Plank Road                  Cameron, NC 28326

Travis Buchanan Farms
2508 Broadway Road                Sanford, NC 27330

Gary Thomas Farms                          443 Thomas Road                        Sanford NC  27330

GW Douglas Farms                         4162 Hwy 87                                Olivia, NC  27332

Blueberry Hill                                  3122 White Hill Road                  Sanford, NC 27332

Gross Farms                                      1606 Pickett Road                        Sanford, NC 27332

Barry’s Strawberry Farm                  4047 Cox Mill Road                    Sanford, NC  27332

For more information on strawberries, events showcasing local foods, or connecting with local foods and farmers in our community, please contact N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center and ask for Meredith Favre, our Local Foods Coordinator, for more information.