Berry Good: Strawberries Abundant Across Moore County
Strawberry lovers are having a field day this season.
Moore County is in the midst of its most abundant strawberry season in recent years, and the public has more choices than ever.
One new grower this year is John Blue, who has added a touch of local history by using the original Blue's Siding depot building as a roadside stand for his N.C. 22 strawberry business.
Blue joins seasoned growers Lewis Ring, Billy Carter, Richard Pressley and Frank Bryant in offering luscious fresh berries available for picking daily on the farm.
"The berries are good and big and very sweet and abundant," says Taylor Williams, agricultural agent with the Moore County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.
Williams calls this one of the best strawberry seasons in recent years. The season began a little earlier than usual, and all strawberry operations are now open to the public. Local berries are also available at all farmers' markets in the county.
"We have plenty of berries, and oh yes, they are good," says Jennifer Bailey, who helps her father, Richard Pressley, with his strawberry crop.
"There are so many berries this year," says Marcie Ring, who helps her father, Frank Bryant, at the Berry Patch on Bryant Road, off U.S. 15-501. "They are so good. They are just gorgeous this year."
Although both Bryant and Pressley are veteran strawberry growers, their operations are different this year. In recent years, Pressley handled the Bryant strawberry crop with assistance from Bryant. But this year, Bryant has taken over his Berry Patch, and Pressley is raising and selling berries on his farm on Union Church Road. Both farms are near Carthage, and their berries have been available since early April.
Billy Carter says his crop was a little slow getting started this year, but the berries are well worth the wait. He opened his produce stand last Friday, and the business is open to the public Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. His berries are sold at a farm stand in Eagle Springs off N.C. 211.
"It's a real nice crop this year," he says "I ate a bunch when they first started ripening."
Lewis Ring agrees that their flavor improves as the weather warms up. He and his wife, Wanda, farm on Airport Road near Whispering Pines. They opened their produce stand Saturday and are offering berries on Friday and Saturday this week. Next week, they will be open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, depending on the ripening process.
"Strawberries need some sunshine," Ring says. "Sunshine helps the flavor."
The depot is not the only historic artifact at John Blue's operation on N.C. 22 north of the airport and near Carthage.
The farm itself is historic. The River Daniel Blue farm has been in the Blue family more than 200 years. The farm is named Highlanders Farm, reflecting the family's heritage dating to the Highlands of Scotland.
Louise Blue, John's mother, says the depot was located downhill from what is the modern U.S. 15-501 route and was a stopping place for the Pinehurst to Carthage railroad. In the earlier part of the 20th Century, this was a popular and convenient way to travel from the resort community to the county seat, and many a traveler was picked up or dropped off at the Blue's Siding depot.
In earlier years the building was used on the farm as a small country store. Today, a ramp has been added, and hanging on the wall inside is a large portrait of Sam Blue, John's father, who died a few years ago.
John Blue has added another unusual touch to his strawberry roadside stand. He is using an old-timey seated carrier to make berry picking easier on the back. This ride-and-pick gadget is attached to a tractor that moves slowly down the rows, allowing those seated to pluck ripe berries without all that laborious stooping and kneeling.
Berries Getting Better
Williams says all of the berries are good this year and predicts that they will become even tastier and more abundant as May approaches.
Mother's Day is usually the time when the berry season reaches its peak.
Taking advantage of that fact are the folks in Olmsted Village near Pinehurst. Tammy Simmons Morse is arranging the Berry Flower Faire to be held from 1 until 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 10, in the Camellia Parke Shoppes. Olmsted Village is off N.C. 211 west of the Pinehurst Traffic Circle. The fair will feature flowers as well as berries and other typical spring produce.
Williams says the strawberry season typically opens in mid-April and continues until about Memorial Day. Some produce stands may close a little earlier, and a few may remain open into June. By then, other types of berries should begin coming in.
In addition to the five strawberry producers in Moore County, berries are available from roadside stands operated in neighboring counties, including the Lambeth farm at Derby, David Sherrill at Ellerbe, and Keith Andrews, who raises his crop at Mt. Gilead but sells them off N.C. 211.
Most strawberry farmers provide pick-your-own opportunities for people who like to go into the strawberry patch and make personal selections. Most farms likewise sell berries already picked, by the pound or by the pint or quart. Some farms offer other fruits and vegetables as they ripen.
Bryant's Berry Patch will remain open throughout the season to sell a variety of vegetables and fruits raised on the farm.
The same is true at the Pressley farm, which sponsors a corn maze activity in early fall. The Pressley strawberries are for sale at the same spot where the public enters the maze.
Williams says there is no reason for any strawberry lover to go without the sweet red goody this year.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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