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Mild weather extending U-pick strawberry season, local farm says

Posted at 6:34 AM, May 28, 2020

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - A cool, rainy spring isn't what some want to see, but it could be a big help for area strawberry farms...as long as they can keep people coming out.

Hickory Ridge Farm owner Robin Pierce says her U-pick season typically slows after Memorial Day, but if customers stop coming out now she'll have a lot of strawberries going to waste.

"It's been so mild, it's extending our season. We're in the same boat as all the other farmers in the area," she said. "We're two, three weeks away from being done."

Strawberry blooms and yellow, unripened strawberries join the glistening, red ones dotting the 30,000 plants at Hickory Ridge Farm.

When News 3 last visited the farm on Battlefield Boulevard in March as the coronavirus pandemic was just starting to make an impact, just about everything was in question.

Canceled school meant the Pierces lost out of spring field trip revenue, but because it's easy to social distance on a farm, there was a cautious optimism that the U-pick season could make up for those losses.

Turns out...the optimism was warranted.

"Strawberry season's been really good. People didn't have a whole lot that they could do in the community where they could be outside and maintain social distancing," said Pierce.

Another boost to business came from the farm's new no-contact, drive-thru service.

"People can get pre-picked berries if we have them. That's a day to day thing depending on yield. They can also get the list of fruits and vegetables we're sourcing locally and regionally," said Pierce. "They drive up, it's called a grab bag, it's $24.60, it includes different fruits and vegetables. We wait on them from their car."

It's been so busy at times that Pierce says she's run two drive-thru lines wrapping around the property.

"We really appreciate the support from people in the community," said Pierce.

Pierce says she constantly updates the farm's Facebook page with information on available fruits and vegetables. She also posted virtual field trip videos aimed at kids with information on farming strawberries.

Hickory Ridge Farm is located at 2928 South Battlefield Boulevard in Chesapeake's Hickory area.