Volunteer Susan Dumke, at last year's 4-H Strawberry U-Pick at Fancy Farms, shows off the quality of strawberries ripe for the picking at this year's Saturday, February 22 event.

By Linda Chion Kenney

Rain or shine, Hillsborough County 4-H is set for its annual Strawberry U-Pick, at Fancy Farms in Plant City on Saturday, February 22.

This marks an earlier date for the 13th annual event with five days to go before the start of the 85th Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, the ‘Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.’

“This year, we’re the weekend before the festival and usually we’re the last weekend, so there should be even better strawberries to pick,” said 4-H Youth Development Agent Brandi Yancy.

“This is the very peak of the strawberry season, which means the berries will be gorgeous, luscious and huge,” added Betty Jo Tompkins, past president of the Hillsborough County 4-H Foundation and executive director of the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District. “This event draws people from throughout the county. It’s an opportunity to get terrific strawberries at a reduced price and at the same time support 4-H offerings, including leadership camp scholarships.”

The Fancy Farms U-Pick is set to run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with $1 quart containers available to purchase. Pre-picked strawberries cost $1.50 per quart. Delivery is available for commercial orders of more than 50 quarts.

Moreover, 4-H youth will be on hand to pick for local area food banks and to help people who can’t pick for themselves due to age or disability.

Yancy works out of the Hillsborough County Extension Service, in partnership with the University of Florida, at 5339 CR 579 in Seffner. According to Yancy, there are 19 4-H community clubs in the county, including 11 in the Greater Brandon/Plant City area, and a push to establish them as well in local schools.

“Everybody knows 4-H started for agriculture, but it’s more than that,” Yancy said. “It’s designed for youth ages 5 to 18 and it gives them an opportunity to learn more about things they’re passionate about and to learn through their projects the skills they need to be successful in life.”

Clubs select their interests, which include such things as STEM education, the arts, gardening, cooking, livestock and leadership.

For more information, call Yancy at 744-5519, ext. 54116.