Tag Archives: Strawberries

Happy Spring!

As you may have noticed, spring has sprung! This past Friday was the first day of spring and with it will come flowers, sunshine, and more delectable fruits and vegetables. Spring is the rebirth and celebration after the long hard months of multiple layers of clothes and grey skies. According to The Farmer’s Almanac the spring equinox occurs when the length of the day is approximately equal to the length of the night and the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west. The precise moment of the spring equinox is when the sun crosses over the equator. Spring is widely considered to be a magical time of year; it is said that on the spring equinox you can stand an egg upright and it will stay standing for 24 hours. Similarly, people once believed that clover were spring gifts from fairies for luck and protection. So, amongst the fairies, flowers, and new life, we stumble into the spring. Here are a few signs of spring that bring a smile to my face every year:

Baby Animals: Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of spring for farmers who have livestock is the birth of baby animals. I talked to Wilkerson Farms in Willow Springs to see how the spring is going for them and they were very excited to report that they have lambs! In England, the lambing season is so widely anticipated that it is broadcast live for the whole country to watch. The show is called Lambing Live (it’s on youtube if you’re curious). Since we are not so lucky here in the US, we’ll have to settle for these adorable pictures Wilkerson Farms sent me of their new lambs:

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Spring Flowers:
Golden DaffodilsDaffodils: One of the very first flowers to appear in the spring, the daffodil is a bright yellow flower that is part of the Narcissus family. According to some botanists, there are 200 different varieties of daffodils. You can plant this perennial and watch them multiply and spread, but keep an eye out for the ones that grow wild all around.
forsythiaForsythia: Also a bright yellow, the forsythia shrub blooms in early spring and grows to be 8-10 feet tall and 10-12 feet wide. The flowers only last for 2-3 weeks unless the cold gets to them first. Forsythia have become widely recognized and planted throughout the South.

Spring Birds:
robinRobins: A well-known and well-loved songbird, the robin is brown with an orange chest. They are the largest of the American Thrushes and actually live in North Carolina year-round, but the spring brings them out in number. During the winter they spend their time brooding in trees instead of out and about for us to see.
red tailed hawkRed-Tailed Hawks: These are some of the largest birds you may see in North America, they often hunt as a pair and mate for life. They can be recognized by the rich brown color on top and their pale underside with a bright red tail. In the spring you will begin to hear their calls, a high-pitched shrieking sound that could scare even the bravest of people.

 

Strawberries: As you may know, we have been counting down to strawberries in our newsletter every week. There are approximately 21 days until Britt Farms has strawberries from the field ready for us to enjoy! This means strawberry shortcake, strawberry ice cream, strawberries with yogurt, and it truly means that winter is over. They’re doing a lot of work to prepare for strawberries at Britt Farms, such as weeding, watering, uncovering and re-covering them with row covers depending on the temperature. We can look forward to strawberries in the very near future and know that they have been grown with care.

If you’re interested in learning even more in-depth about spring unfolding in Raleigh, Piedmont Picnic Project has just started a project called 100 Miles in 100 Days. During the 100 days of spring they will be walking all 100 miles of the greenway system and noting the wild edibles and their history along the way.

Spring is the perfect time to actually slow down and observe all the changes that are happening around us. Take a little time to notice the flowers and birds that are out, bask in the sunshine, and watch the world unfold.

Meet Your Farmer–Britt Farms

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Photo by Britt Farms
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Field of covered strawberries–photo by Britt Farms

This week I had the pleasure of speaking to Vernon Britt, owner of Britt Farms in Mount Olive, NC, or as he described their location, “the ‘toe’ of Wayne County”. I called him on a dreary afternoon and caught him sitting in his tractor waiting out the rain so he could pull the row covers off of his strawberries. Such is the life of a farmer, you’re lucky to catch them out of the field or in a still moment, but when you do it’s a treat. Vernon was cheery and kind and graciously took time out of his very busy day to speak with me. He has been farming his whole life; as a child his parents grew corn, wheat, tobacco, beans, peppers, squash, and the like. His grandfather raised hogs and cows in the woods which essentially became Vernon’s childhood playground. His father’s last harvest was in 1980 and the farm was run by different family members until 2006. Vernon was working full time doing sales for Lowes in Goldsboro and dabbled a bit in raising hogs until the price of pork dropped. In 2006 he came home and took over the farm himself, 2007 was their first vegetable harvest and they’ve been going strong ever since. Vernon and his wife, Jennifer, are the only full-time workers and they have seasonal workers that come every summer. They still have cows that they sell through Smithfield and their main vegetable crops

Photo by Britt Farms
Photo by Britt Farms

include strawberries, peaches, potatoes, onions, greens, and “a little bit of everything.” Strawberries are their biggest crop with five acres in production currently. They sell their produce primarily at the NC State Farmers Market in Raleigh, have a CSA of their own, and work with wholesale businesses.

 

The desire for farming was instilled in Vernon as a child from his father and grandfather, but “the way they farmed then wouldn’t work now because of new diseases and insects. The chemicals we use are a lot softer than what they used.” He went on to describe how farmers once used pesticides and herbicides that would kill everything in the field. Now they still use chemicals but instead of coating the field at the first sign of a problem they scout their fields first to see if their crops have a pest or disease and then pinpoint that problem specifically. “There are a lot more beneficial insects than pests,” he emphasized. “Weather is always a challenge. About the time you think you’ve got it figured out you’re totally wrong. Every day is a

ss_5_10_3challenge around here.” But I can tell from his tone, as he looks over his strawberry field in the rain, that it’s all worth it. He finds support in the farming community surrounding his farm, he and about four or five other farmers in the area work together and share knowledge. If one farmer is having a hard time selling all of one crop the others will help him out and vice versa, along with sharing experience and ideas to deal with pest or disease problems. It seems like a model from the past, but just what our local food system needs: collaboration instead of competition.

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Photo by Britt Farms

As winter approaches, preparation is the name of the game. The work on the farm will shift from fieldwork to work in the greenhouses and barns. During high summer, when there

Photo by Britt Farms
Photo by Britt Farms

aren’t enough hours in the day, if a tool or machine breaks it’s fixed as quickly as possible. The wintertime is dedicated to maintaining and properly repairing the damage from the summer. They will also begin starting seeds for the spring in December and by January their time is fully dedicated to planting and preparing in the greenhouse. Some crops will still be available in the winter such as previously stored sweet potatoes, pecans, kale, collards, lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage that can take the frost. They are looking into some new projects as well, and winter is the perfect time for scheming and dreaming. On the surface it may look as though things are slowing down, but for farmers, slow is an adjective rarely used and Vernon Britt is no exception.

Photo by Britt Farms
Photo by Britt Farms

When you buy produce from Britt Farms you can rest assured that your produce was grown with care in every step of the process.