Friday, June 6, 2014

Mt. Airy U-Pick Farm Closes

    Strawberry pickers have been busy this week in Davidsonville.  Above is a photo taken June 2 at the Mt. Airy U-Pick Farm at the intersection of MD 424 and Mt. Airy Rd.

From the Capital-Gazette:

After 36 years, the Hopkins family on Friday closed the Davidsonville farm where residents flocked for decades to pick their own strawberries.
"We will miss the people," said Tim Hopkins, 67. "We’re just getting too old to fool with it any longer."
In 1978, he and his brother, Jim, took control of the Mt. Airy U-Pick Farm from their father. However, unlike the two generations before them, they weren't farmers. They were teachers working the fields in the summer for supplemental income.
To keep their time and labor manageable, they focused on growing strawberries on just a few acres of land. 
They eventually retired from teaching and enjoyed farming enough to continue, but even with the help of their families, caring for the short-lived strawberry plants took their toll.
"My knees and back were really making it hard to justify going out there every time it rained to pull weeds out by hand for over three acres of land," said Jim Hopkins, 72.
The brothers plan to continue raising crops and animals for wholesale distribution in hopes of maintaining the property's agricultural status for their children. The family did not say what they plan to plant, but made it clear they had no interest in growing strawberries or other u-pick produce.
Susan Kitchen laments the closing of the strawberry farm. The Crofton resident picked them for 20 years.
"It's the ending of an era. Nothing replaces the memories I have there. It just won’t be the same."
When Julia Wills learned she was picking berries during the last week of operation, the Glen Burnie resident said she would start her own strawberry garden next year.
“I want options. I don’t want to be limited to grocery shopping out of season."
Wills may not need to start a garden just yet.
The Country Aire Farm in Lothian opened their u-pick strawberry field in May. The farm, owned by Jimmy and JoAnn Paddy, typically sells pre-picked fruits and vegetables. The lone strawberry field is open until the end of this month.
Customers can collect a pound of berries in the three-acre field for $3, or purchase pre-picked quarts for $5.
"A lot of people... would ask us if we have anything to pick," said JoAnn Paddy. "We enjoy the people and the families, and they've enjoyed it too."

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