Strawberry farm offers u-pick fun

FRANKLIN LIVING MAY-JUNE 2023

Photos contributed by Montana Hester and Kandi Parker

In Russellville and Franklin County, the juicy watermelon often gets the most attention when it comes to fruits. For Chad and Jerri Ann Oliver, however, there’s a different sweet treat that gets the spotlight.

The Olivers own and operate Oliver Farms, where 7,500 strawberry plants grow and flourish on about an acre just south of the city. 

“My husband farms, and I wanted to find a way to be able to spend more time with him but yet farm something that would interest me,” explained Jerri Ann. “I have always loved visiting other strawberry farms.” So the Olivers opened their u-pick operation this past year, and they were overwhelmed at the interest and response. “Our first year we had a huge turnout. We were truly blew away.”

Now the Olivers are entering their second season for the strawberry farm. Opening day was set to be in mid-April but was pushed back because of the weather. With the season now in full swing, customers will be welcome at the farm each Monday through Saturday until the season ends in June. “I like that we get to involve the community and give them something to do in the early summer. It allows families to spend time together, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Jerri Ann, who works at Franklin County Department of Human Resources. She said husband Chad, who works at Russellville Electric, does the primary work with the plants, joined by his father. Other family members also help out when needed, making the farm a true family affair. 

“Our first year was a challenge, but we learned things we could carry forward to this year,” noted Jerri Ann. “For one, all the farming equipment is different from what my husband currently has for his farming needs. Some of the equipment we bought, but some of it my father-in-law built by looking at pictures. That was a huge blessing.  

“The actual planting is enjoyable. The maintenance isn’t too bad,” Jerri Ann added, noting the biggest challenge is “the weather. Covering and uncovering during the freezes in the spring. The harsh cold this past December was rough. The current rain situation is hard. Berries like sunny warm days to produce.”

When all goes to plan, each strawberry plant can yield about 1.5 pounds of berries. The Olivers sell their berries by the gallon –  $15 for u-pick or $20 if Jerri Ann or another picker does the harvesting. 

“I am the picker. I pick, pick, pick,” Jeri Ann joked. “I like to make sure our customers get the best quality berries. I am the face you will see on Saturdays.” She is also the primary person in charge of the business aspect of the farm. “We run an honor system during the week; the farm sort of runs on auto-pilot. We have it set up to where you can go in and grab your basket, pick and then either drop your cash in a drop box or PayPal/Venmo,” Jerri Ann explained. “This really worked well last year.” 

The Olivers said they hope to add something new to the farm each year and to continue to expand its size so even more people can enjoy what they have to offer. 

“Most people enjoy the quality time they get with their family when they come out here,” Jerri Ann said. They enjoy the experience of picking.” One person who especially enjoys the literal fruits of their labor is son Saxton, 12, a student at Phil Campbell Elementary, who “has a food allergy to most fruits. He is fructose intolerant, and berries are one of the few fruits he can eat without complication,” Jerri Ann explained, “so it was a win-win.”

The farm has also been a supplier of berries to both local school systems, and will provide berries to the county schools again this year. “That was a huge honor.”

For more information find Oliver Farms on Facebook.

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