A farm in north central Florida tried something new this weekend to attract more visitors.
Red, White & Blues Farm, 3250 NE 140th Ave. in Williston, hosted its first Strawberry Festival on Saturday, with over 2,500 people attending the debut event’s debut, a sign that agritourism continues to grow in popularity in the region.
The farm offered a variety of different activities. These included strawberry and sunflower picking, food trucks, craft vendors, gemstone mining, tractor rides, a playground and slide and carnival-style games.
Local musicians Cliff Dorsey and Kaleigh LeBeau also performed for those attending.
“We just wanted to create that family-fun environment,” General Manager Heather Duran said.
“This is honestly so much fun,” said Natalia Cerna, University of Florida sophomore. “I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my day.”
Red, White & Blues is a 100-acre commercial peach, strawberry, sunflower and zinnia farm. It specializes in “u-pick,” which allows the public to walk the fields and pick their own fruits and flowers.
The farm went through an ownership change in April. The new management invested in improvements for the farm’s activities and agriculture. It now has playsets for children to climb on and different crops in the planting rotation.
“They decided that they wanted to add another crop that would give them the ability to be open more time during the year,” Farm Manager Thomas Addison said.
By adding strawberries into its growing rotation, the farm can now be open from September to April. Whereas before, the farm would have to shut down for a season.
Addison said the transition to growing strawberries was not easy. It required removing the blueberry plants that were planted there before. He also had to prepare the ground for the strawberries.
A recent cold front that came through the region froze and damaged farmers’ crops as temperatures dipped below 25 degrees.
Fortunately, Red, White & Blues Farm did not suffer much harm from the brief arctic blast.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of damage as far as the actual crops, specifically,” Addison said. “We really just had to stake the blueberry bushes back upright so they could grow again.”
Addison said he hopes there won’t be more cold “snaps.” However, the farm is monitoring the weather as a precaution.
If the temperature does drop again, the farm will utilize its overhead irrigation for the various crops. As the temperature drops, the water from this sprinkler system will turn into ice. The ice acts as an insulator and will provide warmth for the plants.
This procedure is a popular defense mechanism for farmers trying to protect their crops from the cold.