While more than a few local farmer booths ran out of strawberries before the festival ended, most reported more berries would be ripening in the days ahead and said there will still be fresh berries available in the coming weeks.

While commercial strawberry production in Texas is not significant, the direct sale of fresh strawberries from farm-to-consumer remains strong. In fact, the strawberry farm-to-consumer niche is growing across the state. The large number of family farms in Atascosa County, for example, reports significant direct sales compared to commercial sales of both strawberries and fresh vegetables. And the county is not alone in leading the way in popular “direct sales” marketing.

Officials with Marburger orchards in Gillespie County, located in the Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio, have expanded their successful “pick-your-own peaches” program to include fresh strawberries and blackberries and other fresh vegetables each year as well. Owner Gary Marburger says it has been a good year for strawberries and crowds are still gathering each weekend to take advantage of a bountiful season. By the time strawberries stop producing, blackberries should be ripe and ready to pick.

He reports direct sales to consumer is the backbone of his family business and says it provides a good way to maximize profits. Selling to the consumer allows farmers to eliminate the middle man, “guaranteeing the freshest product at the most reasonable price.”

What many family farms are discovering is that consumers are often willing to pay as much for farm-sold fruits and vegetables as they are for the same products in grocery stores. Many consumers say they are looking for “farm fresh” products, but a growing number are reporting trips to “pick-your-own” farms provide family outings or getaways, as an added bonus.

Farmers manning food booths at the Poteet Strawberry Festival over the weekend say without direct sales to consumers, the livelihood of their farm operations would be at stake, and most agree that a one-on-one relationship with their most loyal customers adds a dimension to their specialty crop business they would miss if they operated commercial farms.

One grower summed it up by saying direct consumer sales is, “simply put, a family tradition.”

 

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