Though Lewis Farms has become one of the larger blueberry producers in the Southeast, the foundation for the farm enterprise was built on strawberries.

They still grow pick your own and commercial strawberries, both standard spring strawberries and “winter” berries produced in “solar high tunnels”.

The real fascination with strawberries began with Cal’s father Everette Lewis. The senior Lewis, who died in 2010, was a pioneer in many agricultural related endeavors. He started the first successful strawberry nursery in North Carolina He was the first to produce strawberries on plastic in the state, and was one of the first to successfully use Methyl Bromide to allow growers to repetitiously farm the same soil every year.

Lewis Farms is located in Rocky Point, near Wilmington, N.C., and they have a retail location on a path annually chosen by thousands of tourists heading to North Carolina beaches.

Lewis Farms strawberries have long been a tradition for generations of beach goers, and in recent years blueberries and now blackberries have been part of the tradition.

Lewis’ wife Jackie runs the family-owned retail operation, which features farm fresh, certified Got To Be NC Grown strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.

A pick your own operation and the retail outlet are among a number of creative marketing approaches Lewis takes to market his crops.

He markets some of his blueberries and blackberries with Driscolls, the largest and highest quality berry marketer in the world.

He also owns his own marketing company, American Blueberries, which markets about 30 percent of the total North Carolina production, which is produced by 15 different southeastern North Carolina growers.

Lewis Farms has been instrumental in the growth of the blueberry industry in the state. Now the fourth largest blueberry producing state, production in North Carolina is centered in a seven county area in the southeast portion of the state.

The state’s blueberry industry is highlighted annually with an open house, which is sponsored by the North Carolina Blueberry Council, which is now in its 46th year of operation. This year’s open house will be held in Clinton, North Carolina on Jan. 15-16.

Cal grew up on a farm originally operated by his grandfather. When Cal finished his degree in horticulture from North Carolina State University, he looked at other farm-related options, and worked in the soil fumigation business in Florida for 4 years.

He then returned to the family farm to help his father establish modern-day Lewis Farms and helped him build it into one of the state’s most innovative fruit and vegetable production and marketing organizations.

At the same time, he has continued his involvement in the soil fumigation business and is presently vice-president of sales for TriEst Ag Group.

Being inducted into the North Carolina Vegetable Growers Hall of Fame, he says, is humbling indeed. “To be recognized alongside so many leaders of this industry, many of them people I’ve learned from and worked with for so many years, is truly an honor,” he adds.

rroberson@farmpress.com