Celebrate the Strawberry in Hampton Roads

By Penny Neef

Is there anything better than biting into a sweet, juicy, perfectly ripe strawberry? Strawberry season has begun. The crop is bumper. The strawberries are delicious. The pickings are easy.  I’ve been strawberry picking twice already this spring.  There are so many plump strawberries in the field, it took about 15 minutes to fill a bucket.

In the words of one strawberry farmer, “Mother Nature has the last word” and this year the word is perfect.  The Mother cooperated with a mild winter, just enough rain, and warm spring weather to produce one of the best strawberry crops in recent years.

Time to get picking.  If you live in the 757, you can find a strawberry field near you. Pungo in Virginia Beach is strawberry ground zero, but there are strawberries to be picked all over Hampton Roads.

Let’s start with my neighborhood strawberry patch and work our way to Pungo.

Image courtesy of Penny Neef

Lilley Farms

Lilley Farms, celebrating 100 years as a family farm, is located at the corner of Tyre Neck and Bruce Roads in Chesapeake, close to Portsmouth and Suffolk. The strawberries are sweet and beautiful this year. I know because I have already eaten a bucket or two. A bucket is 4 quarts and weighs in at 5 pounds. You can buy a bucket of pre-picked strawberries or pick your own. Lilley Farms offers field trips and hayrides.  There are pumpkins and a corn maze in the fall.

TIP:  Always check the farm’s Facebook page for conditions and hours of operation. Sometimes the field will close for a day or two to allow the berries to ripen.

Image courtesy from Carolyn Lilley of Lilley Farms

Mount Pleasant Farms

Mount Pleasant Farms is on Mount Pleasant Road, not too far off 168 in Chesapeake.  The Sweet Charlie’s and the Chandler strawberries are priced per pound. Mount Pleasant Farms also sells local honey, local beef, fresh eggs and local produce in season.  There are goats and chickens on the farm.  This is one of our favorite orchards for peach picking in the summer.

TIP:  Some strawberry farms allow you to bring your own containers to fill.  Some insist that you purchase a bucket, which you can reuse. Mount Pleasant Farms will let use your container or they will sell you one, cheap. Always check with the farm before you go.

Greenbrier Farms

Greenbrier Farms is also just off 168 in Chesapeake.  Greenbrier is a more than a strawberry patch.  Greenbrier is a full service garden center, selling locally grown plants, shrubs and trees.  There is a historic farmhouse on the property that is available for weddings and other events.  There is peach picking in the summer.

Greenbrier Farms is having a Strawberry Festival on Saturday, May 11th with hayrides, bounce house, face painting and of course, strawberries.

TIP:  Many farms make and sell other strawberry products, like strawberry jam and strawberry syrup.  Support your local economy and independent farmers.  Buy something yummy.

Hickory Ridge Farm

Hickory Ridge Farm is on Battlefield Blvd. in Chesapeake, close to Edinburg.  They have baby goats.  I love baby goats.  They have other farm animals and pony rides on the weekends.  Besides u-pick strawberries in the spring, there will be u-pick pumpkins in the fall.
Hickory Ridge Farm is committed to selling local products.  It is owned and operated by Farmer John, wife Robin and their triplet boys.

TIP:  Check to see what else the farm has to offer.  Some strawberry patches are just strawberry patches with juicy, sweet strawberries and little else.  Some are working farms with animals, other fresh produce and activities for the kids.

Brookdale Farm

Brookdale Farm has two locations, one in Chesapeake and one in Pungo. It is a small family farm that concentrates on strawberries in the spring and pumpkins in the fall. They report that the picking is “excellent” this year.

Cullipher Farms 

Cullipher Farms, on Princess Anne Rd. in Pungo, is operated by the 4th, 5th, and 6th generations of the Cullipher family. Cullipher Farms has a farm stand that sells local produce, baked goods and Virginia’s own Homestead Creamery ice cream.  Besides strawberries, they sell u-pick blueberries, peaches and pumpkins in season. They also have a 1,000 tree “high density, trellised” apple orchard for u-pick apples in the fall.

Image courtesy from Carolyn Lilley of Lilley Farms

Flip Flop Farmer

Flip Flop Farmer cultivates his/her strawberries on New Bridge Rd. in Pungo.  I have not been to this strawberry patch but I have questions.  Does he/she really wear flip-flops to care for the strawberries or is it just a beachy, casual vibe down there in Pungo?  There is a farm stand with “fresh and locally grown” produce.  Flip Flop sell Sweet Charlie’s berries and says the field is “loaded.”

TIP:  The strawberry plants are grown on raised beds, which are covered in black plastic.  That keeps the strawberries up and off the sandy soil.  You, however, will be walking between the beds in the sandy soil.  Wear your old shoes.  Bring something in the car to wipe off sandy shoes and sticky fingers.  You will want to taste a berry or two while picking.

Flanagan Farm

Flanagan Farms, at the corner of Princess Anne and Muddy Creek Roads in Pungo, has two acres of strawberries ready to pick.  “The best ones are those you pick yourself.” They are a fourth generation farm that also has a pumpkin patch and turkeys to order in the fall.

Image courtesy from Carolyn Lilley of Lilley Farms

Henley Farms

Henley Farms is on Charity Neck Rd., also in Pungo.  They sell strawberries and other u-pick produce throughout the growing season. You can even chop your own Christmas tree in the winter.

TIP:  Show your children that fruits, veggies and Christmas trees do not come from a grocery store.  They come from farms and are cared for by farmers.

MillFarm Christmas Tree and Berry Farm

If you live on the peninsula, you might want to head north to Williamsburg.  MillFarm is just off I 64.  They sell strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and Christmas trees. They also sell at the Williamsburg Farmers Market https://www.facebook.com/WilliamsburgFM/ each Saturday in season.

TIP:  Always check to see if the strawberry farm takes a credit card.  MillFarm is cash or check only.  Some farms work on the honor system.  You pick and put your $$$ in a locked box.

I’m sure there are more strawberry patches in Hampton Roads.  Let us know about your favorite place to pick strawberries.

Image courtesy from Carolyn Lilley of Lilley Farms

Celebrate the Strawberry

If you love strawberries like I love strawberries, celebrate the season by attending the 36th annual Pungo Strawberry Festival on Princess Anne Rd, the epicenter of strawberries in Hampton Roads. The Pungo Strawberry Festival is always held over Memorial Day weekend, right at the tail end of strawberry season.

This year, the carnival rides at the Strawberry Festival will be open on Friday, May 24th from 5:00 – 10:00pm.  The Festival will kick off with a parade on Saturday at 10:00 am.  There will be amusement rides, performances on four stages, a 4-H livestock auction, pig races and “countless” ways to eat strawberries.

The Pungo Strawberry Festival is a non-profit organization.  All the proceeds are given back to the community and service organizations in the community.

Strawberry season in Hampton Roads lasts about six weeks.  Don’t miss it.  What will I make tonight?  I’m thinking strawberry shortcake.