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Strawberry farms prepare to open for business — but not as usual this year

Michael Fine

Natural Resource and Agriculture Agent

SALISBURY — Taking a second to glance at Rowan County’s agricultural sector in times of uncertainty can be a powerful, positive reminder that regardless of the societal struggles we undergo, nature will beat on at its perfect pace. 

For local farmers, even in uncertain market conditions, their obligation to produce food carries on without missing a beat.  After all, we all have to eat.

The 2020 strawberry crop is a perfect example of nature’s uninterrupted rhythms. For the farmers that tend these crops, their preparation started back in September. After fields were prepared, baby strawberry plants were set in fields by early October since a late season drought and heat prevented earlier planting.   

A mild winter combined with adequate rainfall established the young plants until spring when plants could awaken and begin to grow.

Fast forward two months and here we are:  on the cusp of a promising, healthy crop of farm fresh strawberries to kick off the 2020 growing season.

While farmers scramble to respond to a changing market place during the global pandemic, the strawberry crop arrived right on time. 

After inspecting crops over the last week, it appears Rowan County farmers will begin harvesting ripe fruit within the next two weeks. This year, these “victory crops” (a term that has emerged to celebrate our resilient local food supply amid uncertain times) will offer nourishment and a sense of hope for folks longing for something to celebrate.

Food, customer safety the focus

While on farm visits over the past week, strawberry growers shared strategies to ensure that customers could procure fresh fruits while maintaining the safest and cleanest environment possible.  All of Rowan County’s strawberry growers had responsible plans in place for customers’ safety. 

Here are a few of the things that are being implemented:

Randy and Pam Elium of Elium Berry Farms in Granite Quarry constructed a new produce stand on their farm, with modern amenities to ensure sanitation and provide customers with a convenient location to get fresh fruits and vegetables in the eastern portion of the county. 

Michelle Patterson, who manages all public markets for Patterson Farm, expects thousands of visitors annually.  For Rowan County’s largest strawberry farm, social distancing strategies are in place to provide u-pickers with increased space while collecting fresh fruits off the vine in the open air and sunshine.

Mike Miller, owner of Miller Farm Fresh Produce and president of the Salisbury Farmers Market, has worked diligently to provide leadership to the market in response to social distancing requirements. The farmers market will open at its new location at the Railwalk Pavilion on Kerr Street in downtown Salisbury as soon as local officials and the market board deem opening appropriate and safe. 

Other strawberry farms such as Wetmore Farms in Woodleaf and Miller and Sons Produce in China Grove prepare their operations by ensuring employees follow strict sanitation practices and revamp market strategies for farm stands and farmers markets.

In times like these, it’s reassuring to know that our local strawberry crops are healthy and ready to harvest.

Everyone in Rowan County should support these growers and their farms this year to show extra appreciation for the food security they provide the general public.

Here is a list of strawberry farms in the county with berries ready for the public to purchase or pick.

Patterson Farms: 10390 Caldwell Road, Mount Ulla

Twin Oaks Farm: 3280 Patterson Road, China Grove

Millers Farm Fresh Produce: 2198 Miller Road, China Grove

Wetmore Farms: 175 Farm Road, Woodleaf

Miller and Sons Produce: 655 Weaver Road, China Grove

Elium Berry Farm: 2085 Lake Rd, Salisbury

Barrier Farms: 8265 Bringle Ferry Road, Salisbury

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