Visitors by the thousands flocked to Jaemor Farms in Alto on Saturday to enjoy fresh fruit and a day of fun at the fifth annual Strawberry Festival.
Attendees were able to pick their own strawberries for $14 per gallon, browse other homegrown and homemade market goods and shop from local vendors. Kids enjoyed farm games and a petting zoo.
“We are headed toward the busy season, and the festival always gives us the good kickoff that we need,” said Drew Echols, Jaemor Farms general manager. “It also gives people an opportunity to come out and see the farm and have the experience of being able to pick their own strawberries.”
Despite a rainy start to the growing season, Echols expects the 2018 strawberry crop to be a great one.
“We have a couple thousand pounds of berries in our fields and we had to be pretty strategic this week with not letting our field workers pick the berries,” he said. “They needed some time to ripen, but now they are ready. We expect somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 people at the festival.”
For many attendees, the festival was a first “U-pick” experience.
Sara Hummel and Stephanie Shyne came to pick strawberries for a fun girls’ day outing.
“Who says a girls day has to involve shopping? This is more fun,” Shyne said with a laugh. “I like how you can just pop these into your mouth straight from the field and know it’s OK. You know exactly where they’re coming from.”
“We’re also all about supporting local businesses,” Hummel added.
Jimmie and Erica Jackson had visited the farm before, but never attended a U-pick event.
“This is our first time coming to a U-pick event and so far we have really enjoyed it,” Erica said. “In a grocery store, what you see is what you get. But with picking your own, you can pick the berries you want and know they are fresh. Our grandbaby Andrew has been having a blast today, too.”
Twyla Bryant came to the festival after seeing it advertised on Facebook.
“I thought it sounded like fun, and a great way to get out of the house on a Saturday morning,” she said. “With all these strawberries, I want to make some homemade strawberry ice cream.”
Courtney Smith and her three kids decided to tag along after being invited by Bryant.
“Twyla told me about the festival so I brought the kids with me,” Smith said. “They know how produce is grown, but I thought they might enjoy seeing a farm as big as Jaemor. They definitely love it. The only thing though, is they want to eat the strawberries as soon as they pick them!”
For others including David and Ann Rae, the Strawberry Festival is a must-do year after year.
“This is either our second or third year coming to pick strawberries,” David said. “Normally we bring our granddaughter. It’s an adventure for her because kids nowadays think their food grows in a store. It’s also just kind of nice to be able to pick your own food, and even do a little taste testing along the way!”