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Southern Belle gets late start on crop

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Spring activities at Southern Belle Farm in McDonough will get a later start than normal because of abnormally cold weather last winter, according to its operators.

Southern Belle Farm Marketing Director Ansley Glenn said the farm will open to the public on April 24, a week later than originally planned. The farm, located at 1658 Turner Church Road in McDonough, opened on April 15 last year.

Jake Carter, who operates the Carter family farm, said last winter's cooler and wetter-than-normal weather has caused the farm's pick-your-own crop of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries to come in several days later than anticipated.

Nevertheless, he said, this spring's drier and warmer weather is expected to be favorable for the farm's berry offerings -- its new one-acre blackberry and blueberry patches and its two-acre strawberry patch.

The 200-acre farm, converted in 2005 into an agri-tourism farm, opened its pick-your-own strawberry patch last year to attract area residents to the hands-on activity of picking their own fruit.

Carter said he believes many residents will turn out to pick berries this year, because of an anticipated drier spring than last year. "We had a lot of rain last year that slowed us down," he said. "We're looking pretty optimistic having a dry spring."

Carter added that this spring's late start will give farm workers a chance to complete new additions to the former dairy farm's list of educational activities.

Over the years, he noted, the farm has hosted school and home-school groups, and showcases a farm lifestyle that many farmers believe is quickly fading from social consciousness.

"So many visitors to the farm have never had this type of experience before coming here, and we are glad we can provide this fun, learning opportunity," Carter continued.

Carter said farm visitors will find different exhibits for residents to learn about farm living. A new educational exhibit on the premises later this spring will be an observational beehive maintained by beekeepers, Ray and Donna Lopes of Williamson.

"Education is a huge emphasis here at Southern Belle Farm," said Jimmy Carter, the farm's owner and Jake Carter's father.

The farm's educational activities include demonstrations with the farm's livestock -- pygmy goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, bunnies and calves. Most popular is the dairy cow demonstration, which takes visitors through the process of producing milk for mass consumption, said Jimmy Carter.

"We want to share with everyone the farming way of life, and show kids and adults alike where some of the food we eat originates," Jimmy Carter said. "One of my favorite ways we accomplish this is through our milking dairy demonstration."

Jimmy Carter's wife, Kathy, will serve fresh strawberries on homemade funnel cakes, pound cakes and strawberry ice cream in "Mimi's Kitchen" as part of the farm experience, according to Glenn, the marketing director.

To learn more, call (770) 898-0999 or visit the farm's web site at www.SouthernBelleFarm.com.