ADAMS — It was a memorable Sunday morning for the Bowman family of Carthage.
Christiane A. and husband Scott M. brought their little ones to Behling’s Spookhill Farms U-Pick for their first time picking strawberries.
“I like it because you get to eat them — they taste healthy!” said 9-year-old Michael L. Bowman. Michael was accompanied by his younger siblings, Emily E., 7, and the strawberry-smothered Joshua M., 2.
The family had been out for close to an hour, taking home almost 30 pounds of fresh berries. When asked what she would do with so many strawberries, Mrs. Bowman said, “I will make jam and strawberry-rhubarb pie.”
Mrs. Bowman said her family intends to make it a yearly tradition, citing the fun they had picking, the tractor ride out to the field and the great memories the trip created.
For Michael, the only important thing was that the berries “taste sweet and juicy.”
Luckily for the Bowmans, there is a high chance the strawberries this season will be sweeter than most years.
“Sunshine and heat brings out sugar in the berries,” said Michael W. Behling, Spookhill Farms owner.
With the warm winter this season, the plants were able to get a good amount of sun. However, the changes in weather could have had a less positive effect.
According to Mr. Behling, the strawberries undergo a dormancy period in the winter.
“The plants tried to grow in March, when they shouldn’t,” he said.
In a lot of cases, when plants with a dormant period begin to bloom during the winter, they can be subjected to burning. There was a concern about whether the crops would be able to survive the heat-and-freeze spells.
Thankfully, Behling’s strawberries were persistent, which is good news to the many strawberry pickers of Jefferson County. There are few strawberry-picking fields left in the area, and to Mr. Behling’s knowledge, none has 20 acres, as his business does. The competition is sorely missed.
“Competition means you (the customer) get the best instead of the mediocre,” he said. The competitive atmosphere also brings out the best in businesses, forcing them to step up their game and ensure that their product is the finest around. Mr. Behling always enjoyed the competition, and would even offer his assistance to other farms or fruit stands.
This is Mr. Behling’s first time back farming after a five-year hiatus, so his crops are limited — something he hopes to expand on next year. But for now the strawberry-picking business is booming.
“People get to do something as a family and youngsters will remember coming,” he said.
People like the Bowman family will remember.
“We’re going to make it a tradition, going to keep coming … it’s a back-to-nature thing,” Mrs. Bowman said.
The strawberry season started early this year. Behling’s began picking June 1 and he suspects the season will make it to July 4. Most years, the season begins during the last week in June. Behling’s Spookhill Farms prices are $1.80 per pound, equaling about $2.70 a quart. He also offers prepicked strawberries, averaging about $4.50 a quart.