The open forum of a marketplace is a burst of seasonal colors and a steady buzz of chatter. The curious shopper discovers she has direct access to fresh and locally grown fruits and vegetables, herbs, dairy-based products, and proteins. The woman or man behind the table provides a small sampling of popular items; yet, shoppers can experience a more comprehensive array of goods by visiting the farm. It’s vital to introduce yourself and inquire if there is a “farm store.” Most likely, it’s on a familiar road, not too far from home! “Support local” is more than just an expression. It’s an opportunity to support growers and farmers in communities near you!
King’s Farmer’s Market
On 105 Moore Road in King, any visitor will find a sign for the YMCA; yet, on Wednesdays from 11 AM to 1 PM from May through October, they’ll find tents in the lower parking with local growers and farmers. Expect to find farm fresh eggs, cheeses, plants, and cut flowers. You’ll discover handmade soaps, spice blends, salves, balms, candles, and offerings of local honey.
Shoppers can expect apricots, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, a variety of berries, greens, and herbs to be in season. It’s also strawberry season; so, consider a pick-your-own location! Fortunately, Walnut Cove offers an extraordinary scenic view!
Cheryl Mabe, Proud Female Farmer
Some places become sweeter with age. Fifty years ago, in 1967, Bill and Emma Mabe started one of the first strawberry farms in North Carolina. In 2002, daughter Cheryl Mabe Rodgers became a second-generation farmer! Cheryl says with pride, “I run the farm and am proud to call it my baby!”
Planting Fresh Each Year
With a desire to grow large, juicy strawberries, the work of each year’s planting extends to the helping hands of family and the knowledge of growing. Even though the season only lasts from late April through June, the remaining months are a time of preparation and waiting.
- July: Preparation for a controlled burn leads to the removal of black plastic and irrigation. With fields bare, soil samples help understand the earth’s composition from the far corners to the center. Science is necessary, at this point, to determine what ratio of fertilizers will encourage growth and nutrients to each plant.
- August: The extended family, comprising aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, in-laws, and older children come together to process plant clippings immersed in water and in 50-cell greenhouse trays.
- October: Across three days, a carousel planter follows the cyclical pattern by punching a hole in new black plastic, planting, and covering roughly 80,000 variations of Chandler strawberry plants. A well-received selection due to its large, juicy fruit!
Temperature fluctuations and nights reaching below freezing temperatures when blooms appear can dramatically damage the crop. Fortunately, a technological device called a “Thermocouple,” connected to buds, indicates current temperatures throughout 24-hours. Sprinklers, from an underground irrigation system, ice plants as a means of providing enveloping protection. Superior advancements have come a long way to ensure all ages can enjoy the plump, juicy experience of consuming strawberries. Of course, you cannot eat just one!
On Wednesday, April 28th, the anticipated day arrived. Mabe’s Berry Farm opened to welcome a new season of customers. Strawberry season continues through June, whether you choose to bring children or friends and pick your own, or schedule a pick-up. The farm, located at 1695 Greenfield Road in Walnut Cove, opens at 10 AM. “We are blessed to live in the country,” shares Christy. “Nothing thrills us more than to see a child come out of the field on a Saturday morning, covered in red strawberry juice.”
Right as strawberry season ends, blueberry season begins!
Time to Plant
As a lover of fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables, you’ll find June is a prime time to consider planting a second crop of your favorites. Consider adding another row of beans, peppers, celery, chili peppers, dill, kohlrabi, okra, cantaloupes, corn, and zucchini to buckets and barrels or raised beds. If you’re looking to recreate the ultimate patch in October and celebrate the Great Pumpkin, plant seeds in June. Water thoroughly! It takes great effort to grow a hefty fruit!