Food

Gwen Fowler

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

S.C. strawberries for Christmas? You bet!

Posted 12/12/2011 9:31:00 AM

Strawberries for Christmas? Absolutely, and probably through New Year’s. You could have had them for Thanksgiving, too.

Bush-N-Vine Farm in York has about nine acres of strawberries bearing now.

About two acres are growing in tunnels, said Susan Hall, who owns the farm with her husband, Bob Hall. The tunnels look like large greenhouses, but they aren’t heated, said Samuel Hall, the Halls’ son who works with them. Each tunnel is about one-quarter acre large, “big enough to get a tractor in,” he said.

Another seven acres are growing in fields. During cold weather, the strawberry plants must be covered with a material similar to a light blanket for protection. Then they have to be uncovered as much as the weather allows.

The winter strawberries are a favorite with customers, Susan Hall said, and many say they like them better than spring strawberries.

“They’re not as juicy, but the flavor is more concentrated,” she said.

Sam Hall said the family has been growing a fall crop of the berries outdoors for about 10 years and in the tunnels for about six years.

They have a farmer in the North Carolina mountains start the plants growing in the summer, and they plant them in York in mid-September when the temperatures begin cooling.

Temperatures ranging from 45 to 70 degrees are ideal for the berries, Sam Hall said. Berries are picked in late fall and winter, and then the plants begin bearing again in late March or early April. When the harvest is over by early June, the plants are pulled up to make way for cantaloupes and watermelons.

The main variety the Halls are growing this year is the Albion strawberry. They sell them for $11 for a half-gallon and $21 for a gallon at their produce stand at their farm.

Bob Hall began growing fall strawberries as part of a research project with N.C. State University.
The Halls began farming in 1979, just before Bob Hall graduated from Clemson with a horticulture degree and Susan Hall got an accounting degree. Sam Hall has worked on the farm since he was a small boy, but he received a degree from Clemson in agricultural economics in 2010.

In addition to strawberries, the Halls grow blueberries, peaches, pumpkins, and a range of other vegetables. They also run a four-season CSA (community supported agriculture) program.