All About Berries
Strawberries are one of the first fruits of summer and are usually available in early to mid-June. Like all fruits, they are somewhat "delicate" growers and require just the right soil to flourish, amount of moisture to plump up, warmth to ripen and a magical combination of the three, at just the right point in time, to give them a sweet flavor.
Major commercial strawberry production began in California in the early 1850s but did not expand until around 1900, when refrigerated railroad cars enabled growers to transport the berries over long distances. The major strawberry producing states in the US today are
California, Florida, Oregon, North Carolina, Washington, Michigan, New York, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio. While the US ranks first in the world's production of strawberries, the remaining half comes from Poland, Italy, the former Soviet Union, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Japan, Mexico and Korea.
Strawberries were never commercially grown in this part of Virginia. Conditions were not suitable enough to gaurantee a reliable crop. But most people planted and tended a small patch in their kitchen gardens. Ever hopeful that conditions would be right that year, they waited patiently and, if successful, they ate their fill and then canned the bulk of the harvest in wax-sealed Mason jars. Homemade strawberry jam sweetend their biscuits throughout the year.
Some of the gardens were larger than others depending on the growers sweet tooth! In the early days of the festival, there were one or two local farmers that would plant several acres of berries. Some they ate, some they canned, and some they sold in local grocery stores. In the early days of the festival, they kindly allowed the residents of Delaplane and the members of Emmanuel Episcopal Church to come in and pick the berries they needed for the festival. Sadly, these larger scale farms no longer exist and the days of finding a reliable local source for the hundreds of pounds of berries we need for our guests, are over. We do, however, offer restaurant grade flats and pints of strawberries for sale at the festival that are as sweet and fresh as the ones in your garden!
What's in a name?
So why, you might well ask, do we still call it The Delaplane Strawberry Festival when it is held in May, before strawberries are traditionally ripe in the East, and when we no longer have ample local strawberries available to pick for the festival? Traditions die hard in this part of the world. What remains is the underlying celebration the festival has always represented - a nod goodbye to winter, a prayer of thanks for spring, and an acknowledgemet of God's bounty and gifts with the coming of summer.
Fortunately, the increased interest in locally grown produce has created a wealth of "Pick-your-Own" specialty farms in this area. Many local farmers, including the Davenports at Hollin Farms just down the road from Sky Meadows SP, now offer a variety of products throughout the growing season. While none are adequate for our date and numbers, they are more than sufficient for you and your family. For a truly delightful experience, delicious locally grown food and a chance to show your children where strawberries actually come from. For more information please follow link to the Fauquier County Farm Product Directory.