Merrill strawberry growers are reporting a bumper crop of berries this year. Despite a late start to the warm weather, the berries have caught up and picking is prime.
Willie Kimmons, owner of M&M Strawberry Farm on Hwy. 107, reported this year’s crop is “absolutely phenomenal. The flavor and size is good and the picking pressure is good.”
The story is similar at Engelberry Farm, about two miles east of M&M on Hwy. 107.
“It’s beautiful, the best crop we’ve seen in years,” said Engelberry owner Mike Matushak.
Matushak, who has been involved in the berry business for nearly 40 years, said he could tell by the weather that this would be a great year.
“A later year brings more fruit quicker,” he said. “At this point, the weather has been perfect.”
The vast majority of the berries grown at Engelberry and M&M are sold right there at the field. Customers are welcome to pick their own berries, or both growers have boxes of pre-picked berries available for customers to purchase.
The true experience is in picking your own strawberries. Both farms see long-time repeat customers who have made berry picking a family tradition.
“People absolutely love and look forward to this time of year,” Kimmons said. “It’s a good family outing. We encourage supervised children.”
Matushak agrees that berry picking can be a great family activity.
“We’re trying to get families out here with kids,” he said. “It’s something you can do as an event with your kids.”
The Merrill farms have customers coming from a wide area to pick strawberries.
M&M has four picking acres and Engelberry has 8 acres in fruit this year. Both farms opened June 26, which is right in the target range to get the annual picking underway.
Both farms are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week during the picking season, which lasts three to four weeks. By mid-July, customers should phone ahead to make sure the season is still on.
“As long as we have fruit to pick, we’ll be picking every day,” Matushak said.
The two farms provide part-time employment for a total of up to 30 high school and college students during the summer.