Loaded for berries: Bumper crop of strawberries ready for pickin’
By Iva Butler | (email@example.com)
Sunshine makes strawberries sweet, and the strawberry plants at Rutherford Farm on Mint Road are loaded with the bright red berries.
“We’ve probably got two dump truck loads of berries,” Steve Rutherford said.
The farm is located at 3337 Mint Road, Maryville. Picking started April 6 last year, but the weather has been colder this year. A light picking started on April 20.
Stephen Fish helps Rutherford with the farm.
The berries on the south-facing slope ripen first because it gets earlier sunlight.
Last year the season went from April 6 to mid-June, with plants producing more than 8,000 gallons of berries.
While the season went a record 10 weeks last year, Rutherford expects this season to last seven to eight weeks.
With strawberries “it is all weather driven,” he said. The 40,000 plants on 2½ acres “will produce until the weather gets in the 90 degree temperature range. They they begin a vegetating stage, stopping blooming and putting out runners to grow younger plants,” he said.
He runs a pick-your-own berries operation, although there are people available to pick for a fee. The price is the same as last year — $1.35 a pound or $15 for a 5-quart bucket from the pickers.
People are urged to bring their own containers, however, containers can be purchased at the farm.
This year the Chandler variety of strawberry plants, which are planted in black plastic and watered from underneath, were purchased from a company in Alabama.
Rutherford continues to expand his crop offerings.
There is a sign-up book where people can leave their names and phone numbers for the vegetables they want to purchase. When the produce is ripe, people from the farm will notify them.
He has 3,000 broccoli and 1,000 cauliflower plants, which should come in around mid-May. Some of the cauliflower heads last year weighed 5 pounds. Last year he also sold 175 bushels of sweet potatoes.
This year he has added cabbage and Irish potatoes, which are also under plastic.
In addition, he will be selling white half runner beans, crooked neck squash, zucchini, acorn squash, butternut squash, tomatoes, green peppers, okra and green onions.
Rutherford said he purchased his vegetable plants from instructor Billy Coning’s agricultural students at William Blount High School.
Billy’s father, Albert Coning, has rented part of the farm to grow watermelons.