Where Your Food Comes From: Stevens Strawberries

There is nothing better than sinking you teeth into a bright red, firm strawberry bursting with juice and that sweet flavor! Can you tell I love strawberries? Honestly, they are one of my favorite fruits and have been for years. I remember picking so many strawberries as a child and that I would often give myself a stomach ache! (My rule was one for the bucket, one for me!!)

The first bucket of berries was picked in 5 minutes!

I wanted to give my kids some of the same experiences I had growing up so 3 years ago we looked up u-pick berry farms and discovered Stevens Strawberries. It was quite entertaining to watch the kids as they had the same idea I did when I was a kid and I had to explain to them that they couldn’t eat the strawberries until we paid for them. I think that was the motivation we needed as it took us 45 minutes to pick 11 buckets of strawberries!

The reason I choose to take the 30 minute drive south of Edmonton to pick strawberries is simple – you can’t beat the flavor of a freshly picked, vine ripened strawberry.

This particular strawberry patch began 22 years ago when Kerry (and wife Nelda) along with Kerry’s cousin Ron (and wife Marlene) decided they would try their hand at growing strawberries. Both Kerry and Ron farmed and had a vision to create a berry patch with some of their land. From the beginning, quality has been a top priority to them which is why they do not spray their berries with any pesticides. They do have several ways of keeping the weeds down. In between each row of berries they lay straw to help keep the moisture in and reduce the weeds. In the fall they take straw off of the fields which contain wheat and weeds and put it into plastic bags. They then inject it with liquid ammonia and to kill off the wheat and weeds. The straw sits in the bags all winter and then in the spring it is completely clean. The second way they control for weeds is by using elbow grease. It is a family run business which means everyone chips in and helps out with picking weeds and berries.

Kerry-StevensStrawberriesKerry weighing Loreens berries that they picked in only 1 hour!

I was surprised to learn how long the growing season is for strawberries, these tasty morsels are available from the beginning of July to around the third week in September. There are also several different varieties. The Kents and Cavendish berries are summer berries that are large, juicy berries available till early August. Seascapes and Tristars are the fall varieties and are available August to late September. The tristar berries are a smaller fruit, less juicy but are very intense in flavor.

I also learned how resilient strawberries can be to frost with a little help from us. Kerry and Ron have a frost warning system set up so that when the temperature drops to a certain level the horn goes off and everyone gets up in the middle of the night to spray water on the berries. The freezing process generates heat so as much as there is a film of ice crystals covering the berries in the morning, the first sun melts the ice and leaves the plump, firm and juicy fruit ready for picking!

If you are interested in going to pick some berries they recommend to call the field office (1-780-352-2924) ahead of time to find out what the picking conditions are like both for weather and ripeness. As I mentioned earlier the berry patch is located 30 minutes south of Edmonton on Highway 2. Take the highway 13 exit heading west and the patch is 1 km away. Do not fret, if picking isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the berries by calling ahead and requesting someone to pick your berries for you. You pay a little more but it’s still worth it in my opinion. Once I have them my family enjoys eating the strawberries fresh, we also make homemade strawberry jam and I’ll freeze a few buckets of berries to use in smoothies.

StevensStrawberries2Loreen’s kids Sarah and Dylan, and their friend Jilly picking berries

There are many U pick farms around Alberta. These are a few websites you can check out to find U pick farms in your area www.albertafarmfresh.com, www.findfresh.ca, and www.pickyourown.org

If strawberries aren’t what you are looking to pick there are many other options to choose from. You can pick your own vegetables, other berries and fruit and you can even find small, local producers of meat and poultry.

Our hunting and gathering practices in urban areas typically consist of running to the local grocery store to buy food. If this is all a person grows up doing he/she may not be aware of where food originates from. If a person doesn’t understand where food comes from and how food is made they also may not understand the impact their choices have on their health. It is truly a domino effect because it certainly does matter.

If you have never been to a farm before I encourage you to check out these websites and find a farm close to you and take a road trip once this summer. Last year I took my daughter Sarah to a U-Pick vegetable farm south of Spruce Grove. My daughter had the best time pulling carrots from the ground and digging up potatoes. She was so surprised to see how potatoes grew. She got to use a shovel to dig up the plants and pull the potatoes out of the ground. It was like a little scavenger hunt!!
So go explore Alberta! We have so much to offer within our communities! If you do go, share your pictures with us on one of our social media venues!