Fresh strawberries available in Chilton CountyBy Emily Reed Published 3:42pm Thursday, May 1, 2014
J.D. Shaw spent Thursday afternoon tossing juicy red strawberries into his white “busket” with his granddaughter and great-grandson at Sunshine Farms in Chilton County.
“I have been coming to pick strawberries for 15 years,” Shaw said. “I love picking the big berries that can fit in the palm of your hand and taste delicious. You can’t buy berries like this in the grocery store.”
Shaw came to the patch with plans to gather as many berries as he could fit in several of his white “buskets” (white baskets with a deep interior similar to a bucket) to give to his children.
“My daughter works so she doesn’t have time to come out and pick the berries, but I love coming out to the strawberry fields,” Shaw said. “I pick them for my kids, but I eat as many as I can.”
Shaw, who lives in the Lake Mitchell area, said he wanted his great-grandson, Gaige Littleton, 4, to experience picking strawberries.
“He has never been to a strawberry patch before, and I think it is good for the younger kids to come out and see where the fruit comes from,” Shaw said. “Plus, I think he has sampled more berries today than he has put in his bucket.”
This year Sunshine Farms opened several weeks later than usual due to cooler temperatures during the winter that postponed the growth of the berries.
“We had a good extreme cold winter, so it pushed the season out a bit for the berries this year,” Sunshine Farms Owner Tim Minor said on Thursday. “Typically, the strawberry season begins around April 15 and runs through the second week of June, but we are running just a little later this year.”
Minor said rainfall is irrelevant when dealing with strawberries, but cooler temperatures often hinder the fruit from growing.
“Right now we are having some perfect weather for strawberries with warm days and cool nights,” Minor said.
Out of the 122,500 strawberry plants in the field at County Road 37 in Clanton, Minor said Sunshine Farms grow the Camarosa variety.
Customers visiting Sunshine Farms can pick from the u-pick farms Monday-Saturday from 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
For those interested in picking their own berries, Sunshine Farms charges $9 for a one-gallon “busket” or $11 for berries that have already been picked.
Although strawberries are now ready, freezing temperatures during the latter part of March caused many peach crops to be damaged.
“I speculate that we are probably going to end up like we did last year with not having as many peaches with our early varieties,” said Jim Pitts with the Chilton Research and Extension Center. “Peach buds are vulnerable to late-season cold snaps, but I think we are probably going to be OK.”
A similar “late-season” freeze last year resulted in some damage and a delay with peaches being available.
“I am thinking we will probably be picking some peaches around the latter part of May but we should start picking up around mid-June,” Pitts said.
The Chilton County Extension Office provides a directory each year of u-pick strawberry farms throughout the county.
Below is a list of u-pick farms listed in the 2014 directory:
•Jimmy Durbin Farms 3233 County Road 30 Clanton, AL 35045 (205) 755-4203 or www.jimdurbinfarms.com.
•G&G Farms 15184 County Road 16 Maplesville, AL 36750 (334) 366-4594.
•Sugar Hill Farm 3358 County Road 59 Verbena, AL 36091 (205) 389-3080 or (205) 351-1480.
•Sunshine Farms 11703 County Road 37 Clanton, AL 35045 (205) 280-0242 or (205) 755-4203.