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Experience Strawberry Picking

Summer is officially in full swing! In addition to the frosty beverages, water and outdoor activities, and the general warm and fuzzy feelings that come along with this peak season, you’ll find some pretty delicious produce that’s ripe and ready for your taste buds.

Among the list: strawberries! This sweet, refreshing berry is often a crowd-pleasing favorite that’s great in dishes, drinks and desserts, or on its own! 

Strawberries were also one of Harriet Tubman’s favorite foods. In her chosen hometown of Cayuga County, you’ll find farms growing and tending to them, giving visitors an opportunity to #LiveLikeHarriet and savor this delectable fruit.

One of those farms is Strawberry Fields Hydroponic Farm and Florist – currently in its 15th season – boasting 17,000 strawberry plants and owned by Linda Eldred. Like Harriet Tubman, Linda has an entrepreneurial spirit, She discovered the hydroponic farm when it was under management by its original owner and in a different location. Linda became fascinated by vertical farming. (Hydroponics is the technique of growing plants using a water-based nutrient solution rather than soil.

We sat down with Linda to learn more about Strawberry Fields and what guests can expect during a visit – where they’ll “experience strawberries like never before!”

The roots of our strawberry plants are in a medium, and not in soil – so all of their nutrients have to be added to the water. We have it set up on an automatic irrigation system where they get fed their minerals and nutrients three times a day.

Our season is mid-June through October. The strawberries are everbearing, meaning they can be grown the entire season. I think they taste better toward the end of the season, since they’ve had so much time to get bigger, better and sweeter!

Upon arrival, I always give visitors an education on how hydroponic farming works. Most people are amazed at the setup, since the strawberries are stacked vertically and not on the ground – which makes it great for individuals who may have limitations with bending or crouching down. And it’s all tarped – so there is no weeding, making it very smooth and accessible for individuals who may be in wheelchairs, for example, to navigate through the farm.
Then, each customer receives a basket and pair of child safety scissors, and they can pick as much as they want! When they’re done, we weigh the berries for the final total; the price is by the pound.

We usually have a Strawberry Festival and Sunflower Maze during the whole month of August. 

Yes! We have a fabulous strawberry jalapeño jam that everybody loves and is very popular. We also have flavors like strawberry garlic, strawberry basil, strawberry peach, strawberry blueberry and strawberry cherry almond – another really popular one. We do a triple berry, Traffic Jam – which is a combination of different berries – and we also have what’s called the Trainwreck: the Traffic Jam plus jalapeño. We’ve got all kinds!

They can be enjoyed in strawberry shortcakes, strawberry pies, strawberry iced tea, milkshakes, or just over your cereal, ice cream or yogurt. I have regular customers who pick every week so that they’re always stocked up.

Yes! If we don’t grow it, we buy it locally – whether it’s fruits or herbs. We also support artisans in the Finger Lakes area, so our gift shop is also filled with local products. This is one of the many reasons I love what I do: running Strawberry Fields is an opportunity for me to help our local community and be a part of the agritourism culture here.

No matter where you live, it’s important to support local and small businesses because it’s our livelihood. For farms like mine, we’re only open seasonally and shut down during the winter months – so that support really makes a difference. Also, the products are fresh! What better way to enjoy a product if you know it’s just been picked?