Strawberry season has arrived, and Tullahomans don’t have to go far to pick strawberries as several farms offer the juicy fruit in Middle Tennessee.
One of them is Valley Home Farm in Wartrace.
Co-owner Janet Potts invites locals to spend time in the farm, pick some strawberries and enjoy ice cream. Additionally, the farm store offers various baked goods.
Valley Home Farm is a family business, and the beginnings of the venture go back several generations.
“My husband, Bobby, and I are the farmers,” Potts said. “Bobby’s sisters, Vickie and Linda, own the bakery side of the business.”
The family has owned the farm for more than 60 years.
“My husband’s granddaddy bought the farm in 1958, the year my husband was born,” Potts said. “That’s what all Bobby knows as home – he has lived here all his life. So did his sisters, who moved away but then they moved back. I am a Lincoln County import. Bobby and I have been married 24 years.”
The family opened Valley Home Farm in 2000.
“That was our first year to have a berry harvest,” Potts said. “My sister-in-law, Nancy Edwards, who has since passed away, had worked in the corporate world for a long time. And she decided to retire and work at home. To be able to do that and make a living, she came up with the idea of growing strawberries – something that her grandmother had done many years before.”
That’s how the family made the decision to launch the farm operations.
“So we opened up the farm to the public,” Potts said. “That’s how it got started. Nancy learned all the ins and outs of the business, and Bobby had farmer knowledge.”
Fun with family and friends
The farm offers pick-your-own strawberries, as well as ice cream, jellies and baked goods.
In the past, Valley Home Farm had offered other types of berries, as well, but now the efforts are focused on strawberries.
“This is the year we have decided to scale back and slow down,” Potts said. “We have had blueberries and blackberries, tomatoes and onions, as recently as last year. But over the winter, we decided – because of several different factors – this is the year we are going to do things a little bit differently. We are focusing on pick-your-own strawberries, and we are not offering pre-picked strawberries any longer.”
Potts invites locals to spend time on the farm with family and friends.
“Bring the kiddoes, the family,” Potts said. “Come in and we will give you baskets to pick in. We charge by the pound.”
When the baskets are full with juicy fruit, there is plenty of seating under the shade welcoming guests to sit and enjoy some ice cream.
“Gather your family, and have ice cream popsicles,” Potts said.
The bakery offers strawberry cakes, strawberry cupcakes, strawberry cream cheese pies, vanilla pound cakes, strawberry bread and jellies.
“The bakery is the value-added-product side of the business the sisters own,” Potts said. “They make jam and double-layer strawberry cakes, which are quite famous.”
‘Sense of freedom’
“I enjoy talking to people and seeing them have a good time on the farm, especially the kids that haven’t grown up on a farm,” Potts said. “Being out here gives you a sense of freedom. We are blessed with a beautiful place. The view is always nice. Even if it’s raining, people love to come and pick with raincoats and rubber boots.”
The strawberry is a special type of fruit, said Potts.
“This is the first fresh fruit that you can pick in the spring,” she said. “It’s the first fresh fruit you get from the Earth. That’s what makes it everybody’s favorite – after a long winter, you are ready for strawberries.”
Did you know?
According to farmflavor.com, strawberries, a member of the rose family, are enjoyed by 94 percent of American households.
Strawberries are grown in all 50 states, with California producing 1 billion pounds of the fruit each year.
One cup of strawberries is only 55 calories and contains 160 percent of the daily recommended quantity of Vitamin C. The fruit is also a good source of potassium, folic acid and fiber.
Visiting the farm
Kaitlyn Rogers, of Tullahoma, visited the farm on Wednesday with her daughter, Elise.
“We come every year and this is Elise’s first year to actually pick the strawberries and not just want to eat all of them,” Rogers said. “It’s always been something we do as a family.”
This won’t be Rogers’ only visit to the farm this year.
“We are coming next week with my grandparents and great-grandparents,” Rogers said. “It’s fun to get outside and get some yummy summer fruit.”
Valley Home Farm welcomes visitors from late April through early June and is open seven days a week, rain or shine.
The farm is open Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 12-5 p.m. Valley Home Farm is located at 310 Potts Road Wartrace.
For more information, visit www.valleyhomefarm.com.
To find information about other strawberry farms, visit www.picktnproducts.org.
Elena Cawley can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy Jane’s Strawberry Lemonade
This recipe was a favorite of Potts’ late sister-in-law, Nancy Edwards.
Take a quart of fresh strawberries (halved) and add a cup of fresh lemon juice and 3 ½ cups sugar (or 2 cups honey) and bring to a boil. Cook just until the sugar dissolves. Cool and strain, pressing the berries to extract the juice. Mix one part of the strawberry syrup with 3 parts cold water.
Makes 10 glasses of lemonade. (Save the sweet strawberry pulp for spooning over homemade ice cream)
Tammy Algood’s recipes
The following recipes were provided for The News by Tammy Algood, author of numerous cookbooks including “Farm Fresh Southern Cooking: Straight from the Garden to Your Dinner Table,” and “The Southern Slow Cooker Bible: 365 Easy and Delicious Down-Home Recipes.”
These recipes are from “The Complete Southern Cookbook,” Algood’s first cookbook.
“Best Ever” Strawberry Freezer Jam
“You don’t have to have special equipment and it doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare,” Algood said. “Let the freezer keep it ready for you to enjoy all year.”
Yield: 4 half pints
2 cups crushed strawberries
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 (1.75-ounce) box powdered fruit pectin
In a large bowl, combine the strawberries and sugar. Mix well and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the water and pectin in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir into the strawberries for 3 minutes.
Quickly ladle into sterilized freezer jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal immediately. Let the jars stand at room temperature until the jam is set (up to 24 hours), then refrigerate and use within 1 month or freeze up to 1 year.
Sparkling Strawberry Tea for a Crowd
“This beautiful fruit tea has spring written all over it,” Algood said.
Yield: 4 quarts
1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and capped
1 1/2 quarts boiling water
3 family-sized tea bags
1/2 cup sugar
1 (6-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 (2-liter) bottle lemon-lime carbonated beverage, chilled
Mint sprigs for garnish
Place the strawberries in an electric blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
Pour the boiling water over the tea bags, then cover and steep 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags and squeeze. Add the sugar, lemonade concentrate, and strawberry puree. Stir to blend, cover, and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, add the lemon-lime beverage. Stir and serve over ice. Garnish with the fresh mint sprigs.