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Farmers looking forward to a good strawberry season, and a return to U-pick for many
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Farmers looking forward to a good strawberry season, and a return to U-pick for many

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WATCH NOW: Strawberry season arrives in the Triad

Triad strawberry growers are looking forward to a good season this spring and many are anticipating a return to U-pick operations and a sense of normalcy after last year’s harvest during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Right now, the way they’re coming in, these are some of the prettiest berries,” said Christy Mabe Rogers, who runs Mabe’s Berry Farm in Walnut Cove.

“We’re doing U-pick this year,” she said. “My family, my workers — we’ve all been vaccinated — and we want to see people. We want you to have the experience of picking.”

WATCH NOW: Strawberry season arrives in the Triad

Justin Dull, a co-owner of Clodfelter Strawberry Farm in Kernersville, said his farm is also bringing back a U-pick option for customers. “We’re ready to go back to normal,” he said.

Other growers, though, are taking a more cautious approach.

“We’re going to do the drive-thru, like we did last year,” said Bernie Kenan of Bernie’s Berries in Greensboro. “We just felt that was the safest thing.”

Kimberly King, the director of community outreach for Crossnore School in Winston-Salem, said the school’s farm was taking a wait-and-see approach on its strawberry sales. “At this point, it’s just going to be pre-pick,” she said. “We still have a closed campus. But I love to see all the people coming to pick, and all the children running around. I really miss that.”

This year did bring some late frosts that posed a danger to young berry plants. Most farms reported little to no damage. “We lost some to the cold spell,” Dull said. “But it’ll be a good season if the weather holds out — not too hot and not a lot of rain.”

“We’re a little behind. We usually pick the last week of April,” said Orval Jones of Jones Strawberry Farm in Pfafftown. “We did have some cold damage, but it’s looking to be a pretty good crop.”

“We didn’t really lose anything, but the cold did make everything late,” said Rhonda Eaton of R&M Strawberry Farm, who grows berries in Belews Creek and Kernersville.

Jones, R&M and many others are just getting around to opening this week. Eaton said that R&M is planning to have a food truck and other special vendors at its Belews Creek location this Saturday. It also will be selling vegetable plants and flowers.

All area farms expect to have plenty of berries by this weekend for Mother’s Day, typically a busy time for strawberry farmers.

Growers are especially grateful that COVID-19 restrictions have eased so that people are no longer required to wear masks outdoors. “Last year, we were afraid of people, and people were afraid of us,” Rogers said with a laugh. “But this year, we want to see people. We like seeing and talking to all our customers. Some of them have been coming here for years.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Rogers’ 88-year-old mother, Emma Mabe, who still likes to hang out at the field stand during strawberry season.

Emma Mabe and her husband, Bill Mabe, started growing strawberries in Walnut Cove in 1967.

“No one around here was doing strawberries when we started,” Mabe said, adding that they planted in former tobacco fields.

Rogers and Mabe are looking forward to another good berry season — and another Mother’s Day together. They didn’t have any special plans other than spending time with family. “This is when everyone comes home,” Mabe said with a smile.

“And there will be strawberry shortcake — I know that,” Rogers said. “And I like strawberry margaritas, but my mom likes daiquiris.”

“I used to make a mean strawberry daiquiri,” Mabe said.

Contact Michael Hastings at 336-727-7394 or mhastings@wsjournal.com.

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