PINNACLE — The strawberry picking season is “about as wide open as you can go” and at the peak of the season, according to local strawberry father and son farmers Eddie and Kevin Brown of Country Roads Strawberries.
It has been so busy that Eddie Brown said, “It takes a small village to do what we do with the picking and delivering.”
Strawberry customers are finicky when it comes to flavor, price and their brand of strawberry, he said. Recently, cars were lined-updown the dirt road leading to Country Roads Strawberries, as they had been for several days.
Buyers came from as far as West Virginia, said Brown.
Some pickers and buyers stated simply their reason for coming is because strawberries are their favorite fruit.
Flavor and clean strawberries are more important than distance for the true strawberry lover, several said.
Retired Stokes County school teachers Paneen Parker and Wanda Hicks said were two visitors to the farm recently.
“We come every year because of the strawberries and because the price is right,” Parker said. She said she makes strawberry cake and jam with her berries.
Hicks said her favorite is to make strawberry smoothies with Eagle brand milk, sweetener and vanilla.
Local Carol Beck said she has come back every year for a decade, picking strawberries for herself and her neighbors.
She wants her neighbors to have the best, she said. She said she makes a cake each year from the berries and has named it Carols’ strawberry cake.
The high humidity and heat of the day did not seem to bother the clients as they came and went. They mostly discussed how many to buy and studied which ones to get.
Lori Fohn, her daughter, Sofia, and “grandmother Joyce O’Bryan,” said they have been coming several years and drove in from Advance.
The pick has become a family tradition and a way to get the hand-picked strawberries they desire, said the family.
Originally from upstate New York, O’Bryan said “This much I know, they (the strawberries) are worth the drive.” O’Bryan said her father was a berry farmer, so she knows a good strawberry when she finds one, she said.
When 10-year clients Brenda and Carl McLaurin of Winston-Salem drove in from Winston-Salem, Eddie Brown greeted the regulars.
The McLaurins, along with the expert strawberry team, seem to savor comraderie built over the years as farmer and customer. Together they analyzed the ripe red harvest before them.
That heartwarming act among regulars and staff appears to have become a tradition at Country Roads. They give the strawberries the attention, they deserve for such an intensive, short but delectably sweet harverst.
“We like the variety, we go for the sweeter variety, we come here every year,” said the McLaurins.
The Chandler strawberry for the most part is the local celebrity at Country Roads, though the Camarosa, a more tart and higher producer, is also loved by some. The Camarosa is mostly bought by those who sell at fruit stands and wholesale, said the Browns.
However, the Chandler is known for its deep red color, softness and sweetness.
Both berries have the ability to grow on plastic making them a cleaner picked berry, said the Browns.
As with all good things, there is often a downside. “The Chandler strawberry is a lot more labor intensive to keep up because it is softer and more perishable. Its got to be picked and most don’t take the time to do it, ” said Kevin Brown.
He recommended to enjoy them immensely and to the fullest during their short but intense harvest season that began two weeks ago and will continue until June 16th, Fathers Day.
Though the price is the same for already picked fruit, $7/gallon, patrons still like to pick their own.
Several pick as family events and have picnics in the mountain, he said. Others do it because they enjoy being in contact with nature and picking from the vine, said Kevin Brown.
He said an older lady from King told him that if he would always strive be fair and loyal to buyers, they would do well. They have followed that advice, he said.
The staff including “Uncle Ronnie Inman” Aunt Janie Inman, Lorrie Sawyers and Eric Arvizu shared tips for picking. They encouraged to pick only ripe berries, big or small, and to take time to get down in the dirt. Don’t be in a hurry and know that is a pleasure for the staff to see kids and parents savor the experience of a t-shirt stained red with time well spent.
They said the berries would keep for a couple of days without processing, such as freezing, but that it was best to put them in a container with a lid in the refrigerator.
The Browns described the business as being like a big family.
It has grown from having eight pickers to a total of 25 in 10 years.
The season was extended through Fathers Day this year due to a later harvest season.
The Browns said the cooler season made a very sweet strawberry this year.