The Sweet Season Arrives At Merry’s
One of the sweetest summertime traditions is continuing this week at Merry’s Berries.
For three decades, Andy and Elizabeth Merry have been opening their patch to strawberry pickers at the peak of season, this year welcoming the second, and maybe even third generation of families to their Highway H farm.
That’s really what it’s all about, Merry said this morning, gesturing to a youngster enjoying a berry with her family. It’s getting the families out here, enjoying the fields and the berries.
Fields all over Wisconsin are turning red with fresh, juicy, delicious, homegrown strawberries, but the season is a short one, lasting only two to three weeks during the month of June and early July.
At Merry’s, picking began last week, and should continue for about another 10 days, as the season progresses from early to late varieties.
Merry’s draws strawberry lovers from across the region, with many making an annual pilgrimage from northern Wisconsin, where there is a dearth of berry farms to the west and south. They come for the berries, but also the camaraderie and the experience.
It’s really evolved into agri-tourism, Mrs. Merry said. We have people who call us, asking us when the berries will be ready, and who plan their vacation trips around the season.
Merry’s has also been receiving orders from other berry farms, primarily in western Wisconsin, where frost damaged or in some cases decimated the crops.
We have one farm near Eau Claire that asked if they could order 100 flats of berries a day, Merry said.
There was frost here as well, but the Merrys do have some protections against the cold.
We did get a little frost damage, Merry said. But we’ve got berries.
Another factor in the farm’s popularity is the dwindling number of growers focusing on strawberries. Merry said that 15 years ago, Wisconsin had about 1,300 acres devoted to strawberries. That number has been cut in half, primarily as growers have turned their fields to more lucrative and less labor-intensive crops such as corn and soybeans.
But while acreage has dropped, popularity has not.
There is major demand for local food, Merry said. People want to buy locally.
Merry’s is offering pick-your-own orders at $1.65 a pound. Prepicked ordered, filled by Merry’s cadre of part-time employees, including many high school students who are developing key work ethic as well as strawberry secrets, are $3.30 per pound.
The patch also offers pick-your-own peas, also popular with consumers.
Merry’s berries is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, supplies permitting. Call ahead for prepicked orders and picking conditions at 715 627-4630.
Andy and Elizabeth Merry, along with their daughter,
Anna, and dog Max pose in the berry patch this morning.