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Chilton County strawberries ready to be picked

Happy picking: Julie Jolley of Montgomery helps her son, Cooper, pick strawberries at Sunshine/Jimmy Durbin Farms on Monday, the first day the berries were available to the public. (Photos by Stephen Dawkins)

Happy picking: Julie Jolley of Montgomery helps her son, Cooper, pick strawberries at Sunshine/Jimmy Durbin Farms on Monday, the first day the berries were available to the public. (Photos by Stephen Dawkins)

Strawberries are available early in Chilton County this year.

The first berries of the year have been picked at Sunshine/Jimmy Durbin Farms off County Road 37, and other locations will soon follow.

Sunshine/Jimmy Durbin Farms opened its “U-Pick” field to the public on Monday—much earlier than the typical early April start.

“It’s the earliest they’ve ever been ready,” Jimmy Durbin said. “It’s an exceptional year. This is about as many berries as I’ve ever seen on plants.”

Jim Pitts, director of the Chilton Research and Extension Center, said April 7 is an average date for when strawberries are available in Chilton County.

“I wouldn’t have thought we’d be picking them for another two weeks,” Pitts said and attributed the early start to warm temperatures and growers keeping the berries covered during cooler weather.

Early berries: Strawberries are available early this year as a result of recent warm weather.

Early berries: Strawberries are available early this year as a result of recent warm weather.

Sunshine/Jimmy Durbin Farms is not the only local field with berries ready to be picked.

Mountain View Orchards said their pre-picked strawberries will be available beginning Tuesday.

Mountain View’s hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

For more information, call (205) 688-1434.

Rachel Penton with Sugar Hill Farms in Verbena said they hope to have strawberries available for U-Pick and pre-picked by Easter weekend.

“We’re getting very close—if not this weekend, then definitely next week,” Penton said. “They look great, and we have a lot of them.”

Penton said Easter weekend is one of the busiest weekends for strawberries, along with Mother’s Day weekend.

Sugar Hill has 60,000 plants—the most ever, Penton said.

Sugar Hill charges $8 a buck if the customer picks or $10 a bucket if the berries are pre-picked.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

A special is offered on Mondays and Tuesdays. If a customer pre-orders at least three baskets, the rate for each bucket is lowered by $1.

Large groups are welcome but are encouraged to call ahead at (205) 351-1480 or (205) 389-3080.

Updates on the strawberries will be posted to the “Sugar Hill U-pick Farms” Facebook page, Penton said.

Sugar Hill is located at 3358 County Road 59 in Verbena.

Mountain View Orchards is located at 16045 County Road 29 in Jemison.

Sunshine/Jimmy Durbin Farms is located at 11728 County Road 37.

Hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. until about noon on Saturday, but customers are encouraged to call (205) 755-4203 to check on availability because the field is closed in the event of inclement weather.

Baskets are $9 for U-Pick or $12 for pre-picked.