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“Strawberries go well on a tobacco farm, but they tie up a lot of your time. It gets pretty busy when you’re trying to set tobacco and pick strawberries at the same time. It makes for some long days.”
Marketing is a priority
Right from the beginning, Spivey has made marketing a top priority. For most of that time, he has sold his strawberries primarily from an on-farm stand. He also sells some berries to a few informal farmers’ markets in the area, and he sells jams and jellies made from his produce. To further enhance the stand’s offerings, he grows sweet corn — 15 acres this season — and small plots of other produce like peas and butterbeans.
Don Nicholson, North Carolina Department of Agriculture regional agronomist, says Spivey has a marketing advantage compared to many farmers who want to sell produce at a farm stand: His farm is locatedbetween a municipality (Sanford) and a military installation (Fort Bragg).
“There are a lot of warm bodies within five miles of his place,” he says. “That helps a lot when you are direct marketing.”
Strawberries and sweet corn give an excellent opportunity for a row cropper to supplement his income, says Nicholson. “They also provide an additional revenue stream. And for Spivey, strawberries come in at a time when he can take advantage of the labor he has on hand.”
Demand should be dependable for the foreseeable future.
“Everyone loves strawberries,” says Nicholson. “And sweet corn is another food that southerners like to eat in the summer time or put up for the winter. With these two crops, you can really take advantage of the identity many people feel with the healthy North Carolina ‘traditional’ menu.”
The 2010 strawberry crop in North Carolina was really high quality, but it only lasted a short time, says Nicholson. “We had a bang-up crop for four or five weeks, but it gave out after that. The crop tasted good, but too much came off at one time.”
In the end, the profit could have been better. “I don’t think anyone lost money on this crop but they didn’t make a lot either.
Spivey grows some livestock, including four poultry houses with a capacity of about 76,000 chickens, and 140 brood cows. He produces hay for the cattle on 75 acres of Coastal Bermuda and has 250 acres of pastures. He also had 700 acres of soybeans this season.