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Sun-Ripened Strawberries Are A Labor Of Love In The Miami Valley

The "u-pick" fields at Fulton Farms in Troy. Strawberry plants are in rows, and people are picking the berries.
Alejandro Figueroa
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WYSO
The "u-pick" fields at Fulton Farms in Troy

Fulton Farms in Troy is known for their "u-pick" strawberries, and Jim Fulton says this year has been his the best growing season in years.

There is a large strawberry painted on the shingles of the barn at Fulton Farms that can be seen from the road.

Owner Jim Fulton said the berries, which are only ripe for a few weeks every June, are the operation's most important crop. His father, William D. Fulton, started growing them on the family farm outside of Troy over fifty years ago.

Fulton Farms outside of Troy
Alejandro Figueroa
Fulton Farms outside of Troy

Fulton said that even with all the advances in agricultural technology, strawberry farming is not a passive activity. He spends restless nights in the early spring monitoring the soil temperature on his phone to make sure his plants don’t freeze and die. When it does get too cold, he goes out into the field in the middle of the night and turns on the irrigation system to protect the plants.

The strawberries also have to be picked by hand.

This year all that work paid off. The strawberry yield is great, he said—the best in ten years.

But, now Fulton’s got to get his berries picked—fast.

“In another week you'll come out here and you'll go [sniff] strawberry wine," he said. Yeah, it just seems like the whole field's fermenting.”

Troy has been known for its Strawberry Festival since the '70s. The festival has been cancelled the past two years due to the pandemic.

But Fulton said attendance has been great at his famous u-pick fields this year. He said that’s in part because he thinks people are eager to get back outside now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted.

Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.