The harvest for one of summer’s tastiest treats is under way at area strawberry farms.
Pickers in the fields at Glendale Farms on the third morning of the pick-your-own season were eager to fill their freezers with the sweet summer fruit. Few could resist sampling juicy, sun-warmed berries straight from the plant.
Glendale Farms Inc., of Clintonville, opened for the season on Tuesday, June 25.
The harvest usually runs three weeks, according to Dale Kluth, who started the berry farm 35 years ago with his wife June.
Although spring came late, Kluth said, berries like cool weather and rain. He rated the early crop “excellent.”
In the field, Wayne Hoffman, of Weyauwega, agreed.
“So far, it’s wonderful,” said Hoffman, picking berries with Dan Jesse, of Pella.
Throughout the morning on June 27, there were 50 to 60 vehicles in the parking field at any time. Two tractors pulled wagons of pickers to the field in constant round-trips – those returning from the field were hot and thirsty and delighted with their carriers filled with berries.
Sunshine, a light breeze and strawberries too big to eat in one bite led pickers, too, to rate the season excellent. Some straddled rows of low strawberry plants to pick both sides before sliding the berry carriers forward. Others crouched between rows, picking one side, then stepping over to reach the berries on the other side.
Enthusiastic young field workers directed pickers to their starting points, with instructions on how to mark the row where they left off picking and pleas to pick every ripe berry, not just the biggest.
This is Kelsie Dailey’s first year working at the farm.
“I really like it here,” said Dailey, of New London. “I always liked coming out here as a kid. Everybody seemed so friendly – I wanted to be one of those friendly people, too.”
The Foesch family of Shiocton – parents Steve and Betsy and young daughters Lucy and Ruby – started their day in a pea field, where the girls crouched with the ease of youth to gently lift the bushes and pick peas from the underside.
It was their first time at the farm, according to Betsy Foesch.
“We just wanted to get the girls out,” she said.
Judy Ebert, too, began picking berries when her children were young. In return for their help, Ebert promised breakfast at Jim’s in town afterward.
She recalled years back when cars lined up along the road waiting to get into the parking area.
Ebert used her son’s age, 45, and her teaching career – she retired after 43 years, but noted quickly that they let teachers begin work at 19 in the era of the two-year teacher colleges – to estimate she’d been picking berries for 35 summers.
That would’ve been about the time the Kluths added strawberries to their dairy farm. Today, Dale Kluth said, they’re semi-retired and the next generation, Steve and Tammy Kluth, run the farm, dairy, berries and other crops.
Strawberry plants planted this year will bear fruit next spring and for two more seasons, Dale Kluth said.
It doesn’t take long to fill a flat with 10 or 12 pounds of the big berries of the season’s first picking.
Carol Henselein of Tigerton and her granddaughters, Lauren and Kristen Reissman, picked four flats in 45 minutes. That included a brief time out for Henselein and Kristen to hold a contest to see who could eat a berry the fastest; Kristen won.
Toby and Cheralee Marcks of Shiocton picked seven flats of berries.
Cheralee Marcks said she would freeze them and make smoothies every day. She has one freezer full of berries and another for other food.
When their flats were full, pickers waited in the lanes for the wagons. Field workers helped carry filled flats of berries to the edge of the fields and lifted them onto the wagons. Drivers stopped in front of each picker, so no one had to walk far carrying a flat of berries that weighed 10 to 15 pounds.
Back at the barn, workers weighed berries, collected payment and reminded pickers to carry the cardboard boxes with both hands underneath.
The farm also sells pre-picked sugar snap, snow or shell peas by the pound, along with bunches of rhubarb and fragrant onions with long tasty greens intact.
No Time to Pick?
Other area strawberry fields are open for you-pick customers. Farms urge customers to call ahead for conditions.
For those who love berries but don’t have the luxury of time to pick their own, pre-picked berries can be ordered in advance.
Among area strawberry farms:
• Glendale Farms Inc., Clintonville; 715-823-4287 for recorded message; 715-823-4187 for other information; glendalestrawberries.com.
• Cuff Farms, Hortonville; 920-779-6372 to order pre-picked berries; 920-779-4788 for conditions.
• Green Meadow Acres, Dale; 920-609-6199.