While strawberry season is technically in June in other parts of the U.S., February and March are the optimal months for strawberry picking in Florida. Plant City will host its annual strawberry festival from Thursday, March 3 to Sunday March 13.
Plant City, the winter strawberry capital of the United States, is approximately half an hour away from The University of Tampa.
Some open U-Pick farms that are located within half an hour of UT consist of Bob’s Berries and Passion Organics Farm. Bob’s Berries grows an array of produce. For this year’s strawberry season, they grew them out of recycled gutters. Passion Organics Farm stays true to their name, and is 100% organic.
Backing local farmers is a beneficial process for not only the farmers, but for your health as a whole. One major benefit of purchasing local produce is that it’s fresh. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients nearly 24 hours after being picked according to Virtua Health.
“It’s way better than supporting big businesses that are producing mass products,” said Leah Stretch, environmental advocate and UT freshman. “By the point the produce reaches stores, it loses something like their nutrients and has more pesticides and fertilization in it.”
Most Florida strawberries are sold to supermarkets, and around 70% of this production is sold up the East Coast. Plant City, home to large-scale farmers such as the Wishnatzki family of Wish Farms, make up a total of 65 farmers and 10,000 acres designated for this produce.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, this is one of the biggest reasons why Florida is second in the country behind California for strawberry production.
Plant City began growing strawberries in the 1880’s when Henry B. Plant brought his railroad through the preexisting town, according to Sarasota Magazine,
“[Farms] take great pride in the fine quality and outstanding flavor of [their] fruits and are sure you will find their products very satisfying,” said a representative for Solebury Orchards.
Not only does it satisfy the customer, but it supports provincial organizations instead of commercial companies.
The luxury of being near an array of organic farmers is one that UT students are capable of taking advantage of.
“The University of Tampa should be getting their strawberries from farmers from this area,” said Stretch.
Most farms provide a U-Pick until they run out of berries, so while it’s peak Florida strawberry season make sure to check with local farms for the optimal strawberry experience.