By Ali Renckens
According to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Hillsborough County produces about 15 percent of the nation’s strawberries and virtually all the berries grown during the winter. The commodity has an economic impact on our community exceeding $700 million. The 20 million flats produced each year, if placed end to end, would extend from Plant City to Seattle and back again.
Hillsborough County is recognized as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World and the home of some of the sweetest, reddest and juiciest strawberries around.
The season runs December through April with the highlight being in March and the celebration of the annual Strawberry Festival in Plant City.
Here are a few places where you can find locally grown produce and even pick your own edible rubies.
The largest family-operated strawberry and citrus market in Florida, Parkesdale Farms, has had several distinguished visitors, including Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. A popular spot for locals as well, they harvest more than 3 million pounds of strawberries a year, which they sell fresh or in strawberry shortcakes and milkshakes. Stop by their stand at 3702 W. Baker St. in Plant City or order online at www.parkesdale.com.
For more information, visit www.hydroharvestfarms.com or call 645-6574. Open every day – Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
It is closed on rainy days and some major holidays including Easter Sunday.
Hydro Harvest Farms is a hydroponic farm and sales center. They offer U-Pick as well as classes on hydroponic gardening. The next class is on Saturday, March 15 at 1 p.m. They also sell jams, butters, preserves, salsas, and dressings, all made with the produce grown in the farm. They are located at 1101 Shell Point Rd E. in Ruskin.
Brandon Farms, located at 3931 State Rd. 60, Dover, is known for their unique culinary creations. Popular items include strawberry pizza, pie, shortcake and milkshake.
Cost is $8 for half flat.
Wish Farms is open for U-Pick on Saturday, March 15 from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. at the corner of Hopewell Rd. and Jerry Smith Rd. This business has come a long way since their founder, a Russian immigrant, first started selling produce from a pushcart. The company is spread as far north as British Columbia and as far south as Chile and Argentina. However, the main office is still located in Plant City. Their Website, wishfarms.com, gives more details on the company and berry-centered recipes.
Collins Farm Fresh Produce is locally owned by the Collins family and located at 2810 St Rd 60 E. on the corner of St. Cloud Ave. and Hwy. 60 in Valrico.
Known for its broad range of fruits and vegetables, Collins also serves up fantastic strawberry shortcake, strawberry milkshakes and much more. Call 657-2016 for more information. Collins is open daily from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
If we’ve missed one of your favorite strawberry farms please email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about where you get your strawberry treats. We will also be listing local Blueberry Farms next month!