By Maggie Edwards
Spring means sunshine, sprouting plants and sweet strawberries.
Thanks to U-pick operations like Farmer In The Dell in Auburn, locals get a taste of farm life by picking their own strawberries straight from the field.
“It is just a different experience to get to eat while you pick,” said Marie Foshee, whose family owns Farmer In The Dell. “To pick that berry off the vine and put it right into your mouth makes you appreciate agriculture in a different way.”
Foshee compared picking strawberries to an Easter egg hunt. She said the best berries don’t pop up in front of one’s eyes. Kids are encouraged to dig under the leaves to find the biggest, juiciest strawberries. The redder, the better.
“I love seeing how much families enjoy coming out to the farm and getting away from busy schedules,” Foshee said. “Our entire farm is centered around faith and family. People come here to make memories and enjoy the peace. We love serving our community.”
The Foshees said they channel Psalm 46:8, “Come and see what the Lord has done,” as a reminder that God controls all outcomes on the farm.
The family’s first strawberry U-pick opened last spring. Nearly two decades before, the Foshees started growing corn and tomatoes to sell at local farmers markets. They also have a pumpkin patch and U-pick peaches.
“We are a small family farm, and everything we do, we decide as a family,” Foshee said. “All our activities are based around agriculture. We want kids and adults to learn while they are here.”
The whole Foshee family plays a role in the operation — patriarch Wheeler; daughter Amelia; son Luke; and son Mark, his wife, Katie, and their son, Colt.
“We plant approximately 15,000 plants in twin rows. It is a lot of hard work,” Foshee said. “It has been a financial blessing, as we have been fortunate enough to put all three of our children through college debt-free, which was why we started this venture.”
Ninety-seven percent of all Alabama farms are family owned, said Alabama Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association Executive Director Blake Thaxton. U-pick operations play a growing role in that figure.
“It is important for people to support these local farms,” Thaxton said. “I see a lot of value in agritourism. From pumpkins to peaches to strawberries, agritourism is a great asset to the state of Alabama.”
Information about the Foshees’ upcoming strawberry season can be found on social media by searching Farmer In The Dell Pumpkin Patch.
Strawberry season runs from early spring until mid-May. To find more locally grown products and U-pick farms across the state, visit SweetGrownAlabama.org.