By Johnny Jackson
Between the cracks in the sun-dried Georgia clay, plants are sprouting -- and strawberries are ripening. In fields across the Southern Crescent, strawberries are waiting to be picked.
About six acres of the crop in the Stockbridge area -- at Cottle Strawberry Farms -- have been cultivated to serve patrons from around metro Atlanta, according to Rhonda Fowler, a worker at the farms.
Fowler and the farms' manager, Sandy Roberts, are expecting thousands to visit the operation, located at 4830 East Fairview Road in Stockbridge. Fowler said the popular spot for locally grown, seasonal produce has been a staple in the area for nearly two decades.
"We have a lot of people who drive from Atlanta, and the north side of town," said Fowler.
The strawberry crops are usually available through May, she said. Cottle Strawberry Farms is open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. ,until 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, from 12 p.m., until 5:30 p.m.
Fowler acknowledged that prices have increased by $1, as a result of increasing expenses related to fuel costs. A gallon of strawberries is $11 per "you-picked" bucket, and $4 for each "you-picked" one-quart basket.
Pre-picked strawberries are $13 per bucket, and a pre-picked one-quart basket is $4.
"Everybody says it's worth it," she said. "Everybody that we've talked to, I've had no body leave. We also have preserves and strawberry ciders, strawberry sauces, and juices."
Strawberry lovers can also get their fill of the sweet fruit about 13 miles south of Cottle Strawberry Farms.
Southern Belle Farm, in east McDonough, offers about two acres of strawberries, and an acre of blackberries, according to the farm's marketing director, Ansley Glenn. Glenn said she hopes to have an acre of blueberries by the summer of 2012.
"This is our third year with a strawberry crop," said Glenn. "It's gone well, and we're getting close to [prime] picking. Probably in the next couple of weeks, we'll reach our peak and the plants will be loaded."
Glenn said the 200-acre, family-operated farm in rural McDonough sees thousands of visitors each year. Visitors take part in the farm's seasonal agritourism activities, which include its year-round petting zoo and its pumpkin patch, and the corn maize in the fall.
Southern Belle Farms, located at 1658 Turner Church Road, in McDonough, provides pick-your-own strawberries at a cost of $10 per gallon. A pre-picked gallon is $12. Buckets are an additional $1.
Glenn added that the farm will remain open for picking through May. The farm's picking hours are Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m., until 6 p.m., and Sunday, from 1 p.m., until 6 p.m.
Times are dependent upon berry availability. Patrons are encouraged to call before hand, at (770) 288-2582.
To learn more about Cottle Strawberry Farms, visit www.cottlefarms.com. For more about Southern Belle Farm, visit www.southernbellefarm.com.