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Patterson Farm CHINA GROVE Of everything the Patterson family cultivates on their 450-acre farm — strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers — the most important thing may be fun. In

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Patterson Farm CHINA GROVE Of everything the Patterson family cultivates on their 450-acre farm — strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers — the most important thing may be fun. In

8 Strawberry Patches Ripe for the Pickin’

Patterson Farm

Of everything the Patterson family cultivates on their 450-acre farm — strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers — the most important thing may be fun. In 1994, the family added a produce market and gift shop, and began offering tours. There’s a petting zoo and a playground, plus a pumpkin patch and a corn maze in the fall. And of course, pick-your-own strawberries each spring. The Pattersons have noticed how the “pick-your-own” concept has evolved through the years: It used to be about picking as many strawberries as possible, for making jams and preserves. Now? Families might go home with just one basket — and a whole lot of memories.

Mother’s Day is the single biggest weekend for strawberry sales in North Carolina. (Hint: We bet Mom would love a strawberry shortcake this year.) photograph by Charles Harris

Throughout the month of May, Patterson Farm welcomes school groups — like this class from St. James Elementary in Denver — to teach students about how strawberries are grown. As part of the NC Farm to School Program, Patterson Farm supplies strawberries and tomatoes to school cafeterias across the state. These educational field trips bring the berry full circle.

Learn more: pattersonfarminc.com


Waller Family Farm

This pick-your-own spot is a working family farm headed by Mark and Pam Waller. As you drive up to the patch, check across the street to see if you spot a cow! Then grab a bucket and make your way down the rows … someone from the farm will tell you where is best for picking that day. Past blooming snapdragons and the ponds on the left, you’ll find shining ripe berries peeking through the vines.

On your way back to your car, snap a photo at the wooden stand-in photo prop. Who wouldn’t want their head in the middle of a strawberry?

Learn more: wallerfamilyfarm.com


Ingram Farm

Mother’s Day brings families from around the Piedmont to the fields that have been in Dean Ingram’s family for more than 150 years. So many folks show up that his wife, Rhonda, calls it the “Black Friday of strawberry farming.” The farm is as much a multigenerational affair for the Ingrams — daughters Casie, Mikaela, and Lauren are the fifth — as for the families who return every spring.

When visiting Ingram Farm, order a scoop of the strawberry ice cream and a slice of cake. photograph by Charles Harris

Rhonda recognizes third and fourth generations now filling their pails, buying berries by the pound, and sharing a dish of strawberry cake and ice cream. The Ingrams’ dessert kitchen, as with all aspects of the farm, is all hands on deck: Order the strawberry cobbler, created by Casie, and you might be served by her grandma Rosa Boyd. At Ingram’s, it’s all in the family.

Learn more: ingramfarm.com


The Berry Patch

Lee Berry — yes, that’s his real name — has seen folks in cars with tags from as far away as Alaska stop at his roadside market to order strawberry shortcake and lemonade, load up on corn and cucumbers, and stretch their legs before continuing on down U.S. Highway 220. Oh, and the 24-foot-tall, 484-square-foot strawberry that houses an ice cream stand is a pretty big draw, too. Lee — who’s also the mayor of Ellerbe — had been growing strawberries and selling them out of the back of his truck for several years when his wife, Amy, got the idea for “The World’s Largest Strawberry.”

Sure, any one of The Berry Patch’s hand-churned ice cream flavors, from pineapple to pistachio, will make you a happy traveler. But you know what they say: When in Ellerbe … order strawberry. photograph by Charles Harris

Although the berry building looks like it could be made of concrete, it’s actually a wood frame covered in foam. Which means it’s portable — a few years ago, a highway project required the Berrys to load their berry onto a truck and hit the road.

Learn more: worldslargeststrawberry.com


Cottle Farms

Pick a strawberry on a farm in North Carolina, and there’s a good chance that the plant it grew on came from Cottle Farm’s plant nursery. In the decades since Ned Cottle planted his first strawberries in 1964, his son, Ron, now the company’s president, has seen the family business blossom into a 750-acre farm in Faison, a pair of pick-your-own fields in South Carolina, and a plant nursery on Prince Edward Island in Canada.

Pick-your-own strawberries at this Faison destination. photograph by Charles Harris

On the Faison farm, 150 to 175 employees pick strawberries, pack them right in the fields, and load them onto trucks to be sent to stores along the East Coast. The Cottles devote most of their acreage to other produce, including blueberries, muscadines, peppers, squash, and cantaloupes, but they know their berries are beloved. They’ve even mixed them with muscadines in a smoothie they bottle and call JuVn8 — so you can sip your strawberries.

Learn more: cottlefarms.com


Mike’s Farm

Snag some pre-picked berries or pick your own at this farm in the eastern part of the state. For those who want to dabble in a few extra treats, you’ll find strawberries drizzled in chocolate, berries with local honey, frosted strawberry lemonade, and a selection of strawberry-centric baked goods.

If you go on a Saturday in May, stay and make a day of it with food trucks, North Carolina wine tastings, farm animals, hayrides, and live music throughout the month.

Learn more: mikesfarmnc.com


Lewis Nursery and Farms

In Pender County, Cal Lewis tends the legacy that his late father, Everette, started in 1953. Everette was the first in his family to graduate from college, and the first in the state to propagate certified strawberry plants. After studying horticulture at NC State like his dad, Cal joined the farm in 1982.

Cal Lewis oversees hundreds of acres of berries. photograph by Charles Harris

Today, he oversees hundreds of acres of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries — and, most recently, “tunnel-grown” strawberries in the winter. It’s the next logical step for a family for whom innovation, like their love of berries, comes naturally.

Learn more: lewisfarms.com


New Castle Farm

This farm began when Dillon and DeAnna Calloway Prevette planted their first acre of strawberries in 2020. The couple enjoyed visiting you-pick farms during their college years and wanted to bring that experience back to their hometown and to their children. All strawberry pickers will get a basket to take through the field, and mini baskets are available for little ones who want to take part in the experience.

After harvesting, enjoy the fruits of your labor at a picnic table and play yard games.

Learn more: newcastlenc.com

This story was published on Apr 28, 2017

Our State Staff

Since 1933, Our State has shared stories about North Carolina with readers both in state and around the world. We celebrate the people and places that make this state great. From the mountains to the coast, we feature North Carolina travel, history, food, and beautiful scenic photography.