Strong demand for locally-owned strawberries
By Clint Thompson
Strawberry season is in full swing in Alabama. Unfortunately, for farmers, they don’t have enough product to satisfy local demand.
“If I had 10 acres of strawberries today, I wouldn’t have enough. Saturday morning, about 10 o’clock, I had 82 phone calls and I just unplugged my telephone,” said Bobby Ray Holmes, part-owner of Holmestead Farm in Talladega, Alabama.
Holmes usually doesn’t have any problem selling strawberries. But this year the demand has been overwhelming. This is due to the coronavirus pandemic. U-pick strawberry operations provide families an outlet to escape the new norm of social isolation.
“All of the strawberry farmers have run out of product because all of these people are home and can’t go anywhere. So, they go and pick strawberries,” said Holmes. “(Families) say, we can go to the farm. People are pinned in. They want somewhere to go. The kids are all out of school. They want somewhere to take the kids.”
John Aplin, owner of Aplin Farms in Slocomb, Alabama, echoes Holmes’ sentiments.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s been crazy. Every year we increase our strawberries to meet demand,” said. “We doubled our strawberries this past year. When I opened the U-pick strawberries, we can’t stay open over four hours. Then we have to close for three days and let them ripen back up.”
Holmes estimates that he has 1.5 acres of strawberries or approximately 30,000 plants. He said the three or four other farmers are facing the same scenario this year; they don’t have enough strawberries. “They’ve got the same problem,” Holmes admits.
“Anytime it’s a problem if you’ve got folks that want to spend money with you, and you don’t have something to sell them. You’ve got a problem,” Holmes said.