By Valerie Baldowski
Strawberry lovers can now pick their fill of their favorite fruit at Southern Belle Farm.
The farm, located at 1658 Turner Church Road in McDonough, opened its strawberry patch to the public on Earth Day, April 22.
The patch is expected to remain open for berry picking through early June, according to Ansley Glenn, marketing director for the farm.
Three visitors to the farm -- Lorraine Brown, her daughter, Jamie Brown of Covington, and Lorraine Brown's 7-year-old grandson, Garrett Murrell -- were moving up and down the rows of neatly planted strawberries on Tuesday, filling their buckets.
"We wanted a place that had really big, delicious, juicy strawberries, and the place we had been going to seemed like it was overpicked," said Lorraine Brown. "My daughter told me about this place, and we said, 'let's try it out.'"
Murrell said strawberries are among his favorite fruits, and that picking his own was an enjoyable experience. The best way to pick a strawberry, he explained, is to carefully reach down and give a quick tug, to pick the berry but not the stem.
"My grandson is on spring break from Morgan County [schools] and he's staying with us," said Lorraine Brown. "We wanted something exciting for him to do. This is a wholesome activity."
Despite a stiff breeze Tuesday, the family maintained focus on the task at hand. The adults remarked on the large size of the strawberries, while young Murrell steadily filled his bucket.
"It's wonderful ... it's the best strawberry patch I've ever been to," said Jamie Brown. "The strawberries are humongous."
The strawberries the three of them picked, she added, will most likely last for a week.
The farm fared well after a chilly winter, said Glenn. Despite a late start, the strawberry plants are ready, she continued.
"It was a really long, cold winter," Glenn said. "We didn't get a few warm days early in the spring, which sometimes jump starts the berries. That's the reason why they were almost two weeks late this year."
The cold weather did not damage the crop, she added.
Glenn said strawberries usually begin blooming in mid-March. "From bloom day, it's usually 30 days before we have ripe strawberries," she said. "They bloomed, [but] they were just slow to ripen."
The farm has two acres of strawberry plants, she said. "This morning we had two people picking, and they picked 130 gallons," Glenn added. "Picking's really good right now, because it's the peak of the season."
Come June and July, she said, the farm is expected to have blueberries and blackberries.