Strawberry patch opens early

Published 5:20 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Deliciously ripe strawberries dotting the fields at Sunshine Farms in Clanton drew people in March 27 for the U-Pick Strawberry Patch’s opening day.

“This is the earliest we’ve ever opened,” said Tim Minor of Jim Durbin Farms and Sunshine Farms. “The early spring has brought the berries on early.”

Basket-bucket containers called “buskets” waited to be filled with strawberries plucked straight from the vines.

“The plants have some more growing to do, but they’re also producing some large berries out there right now,” Minor said. “The taste has been really good. Normally, the sugar content runs about 10 to 12 percent.”

Marisa Yates, left, and McKenzie Mims, right, of Clanton pick strawberries at Sunshine Farms' U-Pick Strawberry Patch on March 27.

The patch opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday and will be open for about two more months, Minor said, or until the summer heat stops fruit growth.

“We normally go through April and May, up until the first week of June,” Minor said. “The strawberry crop is very sensitive to heat. The hotter the days get, it causes the plants to begin trying to regenerate (themselves) instead of the fruit.”

Minor and Jim Durbin, owner of Jim Durbin Farms and Sunshine Farms, have had about 18 years to get acquainted with the bright red beauties they grow and sell from nearly 110,000 strawberry plants.

“If they make a berry every day per plant, that’s a lot of berries,” Minor said.

“We’re the ones that have been in it the longest continuously,” Durbin said. “We’ve got a customer base that’s loyal. They’ve been coming for years.”

Customers can pay $9 a busket and pick their strawberries, or they can pay $11 for a pre-picked busket.

Minor said it is not uncommon for children to leave the patch with berry juice all over themselves.

“We have people come out with children, and they do a lot of sampling,” Minor said. “We encourage that. We don’t stress over that.”

Jim Durbin, owner of Jim Durbin Farms and Sunshine Farms, holds a "busket" of pre-picked strawberries in the U-Pick Strawberry Patch opening day.

The patch is open from 7 a.m. until dusk, Monday through Saturday, unless it rains or the strawberries are not ripe enough.

Minor said anyone interested in picking should call before they come.

“It’s always good to call ahead. If we do get a rain, we close the field,” he said. “We do close some days to allow fruit to ripen on up. Once you pick the berry, that’s as ripe as the berry is going to get.”

For daily updates and operating hours, call the U-Pick Strawberry Patch at (205) 755-4203 or (205) 280-0242.