Just a few months ago, the outlook for berry crops in the Carolinas looked bleak indeed, thanks to the combination of unseasonal cold in late winter with inundating rains as harvest approached. But after a late start, the berry crops in these two states performed well in yield and quality.

The strawberry crop, in fact, was enormous, especially early in the season.

“It posed major challenges for our state’s farmers,” said Barclay Poling, executive director of the North Caroline Strawberry Association. “The plants were absolutely loaded with fruit, and berries ripened all at once rather than gradually over a period of time.”

Fields that would typically yield 2,000 pounds per acre per week had in many cases escalated by mid-May to 5,000 to 6,000 pounds, if not higher, he explained. The only way to deal with that was to attract customers to pick those berries, and farmers came up with a bold step to encourage that.

“If a person went to a pick-your-own farm and bought three buckets of strawberries, we would give them a fourth,” said Mitchell Wrenn of Wrenn Farms in Zebulon, N.C. “We encouraged customers to give the free bucket to someone in need. It wasn’t a big cost item for any of us because we had way too much fruit and had to do something with it.”

Looking back, he thinks it was a relatively inexpensive way of garnering some good public relations for the state industry. The idea was originated and publicized by the N.C. Strawberry Association, of which Wrenn is the president.