Ok. It's time. I couldn't tell you before because of my personal paranoia.
But now I can finally tell the real story behind why we haven't had strawberries the past few years. (I'll get to the paranoia part...keep reading!)
We've grown strawberries for the public since our first crop here in 2003 (actually Clyde had grown them for many many years on his grandparents' farm in upstate NY, and I was there for 5 years also, but that's a story for another blog post. Remind me to write it someday!) Anyway, where was I?
We had a lot of ups and downs over the years, but always produced some of the VERY BEST local strawberries! Folks came from a long ways to get Fenton's Berry Farm's strawberries.
And then we quit. At least temporarily.
In the fall of 2018, Clyde went to work for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service (that's a mouthful!) working as a program associate in food safety, with an office in Little Rock. He lived for a few weeks with my sister and brother-in-law in Scott, Arkansas, then got a place in Little Rock. He would come home to the farm on Friday evenings, and leave at dark-thirty Monday mornings to return to work in Little Rock. He did this for just under a year.
The job was supposed to be more hands-on, getting out and talking to farmers around the state about food safety on their farms, but it turned out to be far more "office" than "farm" work. To better pursue his passion for farmers and helping them to grow food, he was able to move to the position of county ag agent for Sebastian county (still working for the UA Extension service). He got an apartment in Van Buren, and for the past 2-1/2 years continued his weekly commute between the farm and his office in Barling, just outside Fort Smith.
As for the strawberries...For the 2019 crop, he put in a crop as usual, and found that growing strawberries "on the weekend" was very difficult. They require far more attention than he was able to give them (and far more brawn than I was!) We decided that for 2020 we would NOT put in strawberries (we grow them as annuals, putting in new plants every year), but continue the blueberries, blackberries, and a few vegetables to put in our Market.
In 2020, COVID happened (Clyde and I both got it, and both got over it, thankfully!), and it was just a hard year. Long story a little shorter, we decided to sell half of our farm as well as the Market property to retire a lot of debt, but to remodel part of one of our pole barns to be a future market facility (which we have done...another future post!)
We also did not put in strawberries to sell for 2021 or 2022.
And about my paranoia...It's simple, really. I tend to be a lot like Mark Twain when he said something akin to, "I've experienced many terrible things in my life, most of which never happened." I just always imagine the worst that could happen in a situation. Being home alone so much when Clyde was working away, I worried about what COULD happen if that were made public. So I just didn't.
Three weeks ago, 5/2/22, Clyde became the ag agent for SEARCY county, with an office in Marshall, and he is now "home" again! He is not living away for the first time in 3-1/2 years!...which means he has more time to devote to his first love, his own farm. We anticipate that we WILL produce strawberries again for the 2023 harvest season (April-May, into June some years).
Did I just hear the angels sing...or was that YOU?? 😉
For the record, always barring anything unforeseen, we appear to have our BEST CROP EVER of blueberries and blackberries, as well as red raspberries all to start by early June, and tomatoes and more coming this summer. Join and watch our Facebook page for Fenton's Berry Farm!