North Carolina Strawberries

Enjoy This State Berry and Support Your Local Farmer!

NC Strawberries

North Carolina ranks third in total strawberry production in the United States. We are unique in that a majority of our strawberries are sold directly to consumers through pick-your-own farms, farmers markets, farm stands and local groceries. In 2018, North Carolina produced 12.5 million pounds of strawberries, totaling almost $21.4 million in income for our local farmers.

The most popular varieties here are  Sweet Charlie, Camarosa, and Chandler, all known as tasty local market selections. Newer varieties are consistently being bred, including here in North Carolina, for disease resistance and climate adaptability.

A majority of North Carolina strawberries are grown using the “Southeastern” or “Hill” plasticulture system. This method, originally developed by NC growers in conjunction with NC State University researchers, adapts strawberry production to North Carolina conditions by preparing strawberries for the colder winter weather. Over the growing season, usually running from late September to early April, farmers use a variety of methods, such as row covers, to prepare the fruit for harvest. Come spring, it’s a ritual for thousands of North Carolina families to visit local pick-your-own strawberry farms. You’ll also find fresh harvested strawberries at farm stands, local farmers markets, and local grocery stores.

Find Strawberries Near You

You can find fresh, North Carolina strawberries from your nearby farmers market, a pick-your-own farm, or your local grocery! Find a farmers market near you with the North Carolina Farm Fresh Farmers Market Directory. You can search by county or by market name! Looking to pick your own? Download the Visit NC Farms app to find pick-your-own strawberry farms in your region. You can also find a list of farms and map from the North Carolina Strawberry Association.

Click to learn more about strawberries from the
NC 10% Campaign.

Spring is for North Carolina Strawberries

Watch this video from the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to learn about different breeds of strawberries, new breeds coming to fruition, and the greater strawberry industry here in North Carolina.

Want to learn more about how strawberries are grown in North Carolina?
Check out this video from UNC-TV: Strawberry Mania!


North Carolina Strawberry Association

The North Carolina Strawberry Association is a non-profit organization based in Siler City, North Carolina that works to promote local strawberry production and marketing in North Carolina and across the Southeast. They support farmers, researchers, and consumers through award initiatives, scholarships, research grants, and their farm locator. The NCSA also offers a variety of publications for purchase, including the Strawberry Plasticulture Manual.

Each year, the NCSA holds a conference, the Southeast Strawberry Expo, to discuss the latest in strawberry production. You can sign up for their monthly newsletter to learn more about the expo and stay up to date on all things strawberry in the Southeast!

You can learn more about the North Carolina Strawberry Association by visiting their website at https://ncstrawberry.com/.


Get to Know Your Strawberry Farmer

Above, Karma Lee stands in her family farm’s strawberry patch.

Growers found themselves in uncharted territory when effects of the pandemic began to set in during March of last year, right before strawberry picking season.

Karma Lee of Buckwheat Farm, a pick-your-own strawberry farm located in Apex, knew she had to adapt fast. Like many other farms across the state, Buckwheat Farm adapted their operations to accommodate for social distancing, increased sanitation, and limited customer interactions. They even added an online shop and drive-through so people could get fresh strawberries without having to step out of their car.

Lee’s expertise in strawberry production and farm operations has grown since the family bought their land in 1994, helping her to accommodate the farm as needed.  But, at first, the Lee family had no idea what to do with all their newfound space. Lee, recalling her own memories of picking strawberries in central Illinois as a kid, suggested they grow strawberries. 

“We had this big Chevrolet, and it had a huge, huge trunk,” said Lee. Her mom would collect all the pots, pans, and bowls she could find to fill the trunk with two layers of strawberries. Then, her family would make lots of jams and jellies, selling any leftover berries to their neighbors for just 25 cents. Lee knew she wanted to help other families make the same memories she now cherished. So, they chose to start a strawberry farm on their new property.

But, only having some gardening skills under their belt, they had no idea where to start. They got to work with the help of NC State Extension, Mitchell Wrenn of Wrenn’s Farm, and the North Carolina Strawberry Association. By 1998, Buckwheat Farm had planted and harvested their first crop.

Since then, Lee and her family have added blueberries, mushrooms, honey, homemade ice cream, and handcrafted jams and jellies to their repertoire. 

Despite the pandemic, Lee hopes she can continue to help families build long-lasting memories at Buckwheat Farm. “We see a lot of families here and they’re taking lots of pictures and then you see them come back year after year. And so, I just feel like what we’re doing is helping provide some good memories for families and for kids,” said Lee.

When asked about when their farm would be open to the public, Lee responded, “Strawberries are like having a baby… You know they’re coming, but you never know exactly what day they’re going to get here.”You can learn more about Buckwheat Farm and when they open by liking them on Facebook or by visiting their website at https://www.buckwheatfarm.com/.

Don’t live near Apex, NC?
Check out these farmers or
use the Visit NC Farms app!


Find Strawberries at Your Local Farmers Market

When spring rolls around, farmers markets are stacked high with strawberries and other spring produce. Find your local farmers market using the North Carolina Farm Fresh Farmers Market Directory or look through the markets and vendors we have highlighted below!

NCFM vendors with strawberries

  • Wrenn’s Farm
  • HS Howell Farms
  • Rob’s Fresh Produce
  • Mama Jean’s Produce
  • Strawberry City

GFM vendors with strawberries

  • Phillips Farm
  • Sugar Hill Produce (chemical free)
  • Smith Farms

CFM vendors with strawberries

  • Brooks Farm
  • Cates Corner Farm
  • Eco Farm
  • Lyon Farms
  • Maple Spring Gardens
  • McAdams Farm
  • Flat River Nursery & Farm
  • Split Acre Farm
  • Turtle Run Farm
  • Mu Tar K’Paw Gardens
  • Zack’s Family Farm

Recipes

Celebrate Mother’s Day safely this year by getting outdoors, picking your own strawberries, and making one of the delicious
recipes featuring this state berry from below. You can find even more recipes from the North Carolina Strawberry Association.

Triple Berry
Kale Salad

Enjoy this triple berry kale salad, featuring strawberries, from Cottle Farms, a local NC strawberry grower!

Strawberry and
Cream Biscuits

Try this classic recipe from Lewis Farms, one of the largest nurseries and farms in NC.

Old-Fashioned Strawberry Ice Cream

Looking to cool down on a hot day? Check out this mouthwatering recipe from Our State Magazine.


Other Resources

In 2001, some state lawmakers were engaged in a less-than-sweet debate: Which berry should be named the official berry of North Carolina? We tracked down the teacher and fourth-graders who started it all with a class project and got a lot more than they bargained for. Plus, meet the former state senator who voted against every new state symbol. His reasoning says a lot about the things we pick to represent us.

By Jeremy Markovich

Learn how to grow your own strawberries from NC State Extension.

Are you a teacher looking to incorporate strawberries into your curriculum? Check out these curricula from NC State Extension which offer ways to incorporate strawberries into your teachings about plants and the strawberry economy in North Carolina. NC State Extension offers lesson plans for kindergarten through fifth grade as well as several multi-age lesson plans.

You can find more resources, such as coloring books and scholarships, at the North Carolina Strawberry Association website.

Feature Photo by Mark Stebnicki from Pexels

Copyright 2018 ncfoodcouncil. All rights reserved. Contact Angel Cruz at aecruz@ncsu.edu or Joyce Yao at jyao8@ncsu.edu with any comments, questions, or concerns.