BERRYTON — Children and adults carried buckets, bags, boxes and bowls through Jay Shively’s 1½-acre strawberry patch on Friday, squatting to reach beneath the leaves for plump red berries.
Dozens of Topeka-area families, including many with young children, visited the patch at Berry Hill UPick Farm, 5840 S.E. Croco Road in Berryton, to pick a few pounds of vine-ripened strawberries from the field’s first crop.
Shively and his family planted 20,000 June-bearing and ever-bearing strawberry plants last September. The field opened for picking Monday.
“You’ll see kids coming out of there with red around their mouth,” he said Friday in between directing new arrivals to sections of the patch with the most ripe berries and taking a photo for a family preparing to pay for their berries. “I love seeing that.”
Four-year-old Kasanda Torres appeared to be fighting the urge to pop one of the sweet red berries into her mouth as she held it close to her nose.
Her aunt, Nancy Torres — carrying her 7-month-old daughter, Alexa Jackson, strapped to her chest — said her sister had seen posts about the strawberry patch on Facebook.
“They’re always wanting to go do things,” Torres said. “They like eating strawberries, so why not have them pick them?”
Liliana Torres, 9, said she had been learning about strawberries in science at her school, Highland Park Central Elementary School.
Several visitors to the patch have shared stories with Shively about how they used to pick strawberries when they were kids, and he has enjoyed hearing their memories. He said many people came out to pick berries after hearing about the farm last summer, when 2½ acres of sunflowers bloomed there for the first time.
Travelers seeking agritourism opportunities continued to contact Shively a month after the sunflowers stopped blooming last August. This year, he plans to plant more sunflowers, staggering the planting times to extend the overall bloom time. He said he plans to plant the first section June 1, which would then bloom about Aug. 1.
Shively has been posting days and times when the strawberry patch is open for picking on the Berry Hill UPick Farm Facebook page. People planning to visit should check the page for updates tied to weather changes.
The patch will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Strawberries cost $3.50 per pound — cash only — and pickers should bring a bucket or other container for the berries.
Shively said he expects at least two more sets of pickings and potentially a third before the end of the season, which will be shorter because of a cold spring that shifted quickly to hotter temperatures.
Contact reporter Samantha Foster at (785) 295-1186 or @samfoster_ks on Twitter.