Looking for something fun this weekend? Pick your own strawberries before peak season's over

Carley Bonk
Chambersburg Public Opinion

Have you tried a strawberry from this year's local crop yet?

Well, Brent Barnhart, owner of Country Creek Produce, suggests doing so this week, as the crop is nearing the end of its peak.

And this year's harvest has been especially sweet. 

Cloudy days are good for strawberries early in the season because that means there won't be a chance of freezing. By incorporating an irrigation system and taking measures like covering the crop with blankets when there is a chance of frost, Barnhart cuts down on his losses. This year, he only lost 2% of his crop.

"Last year, we lost 50% of the crop in 15 minutes," he said. "We had an irrigation system malfunction and when it malfunctioned, it wasn't good - that took them out."

Barnhart started his strawberry crop in 2008, with 5,000 plants. Now, he has 125,000 plants spread across eight and a half acres. The rows are covered in black plastic that helps keep weeds at bay and elevates the plants to prevent them from getting flooded out during heavy rains.

Brent Barnhart, owner and operator of Country Creek Farm, explains that the dryer conditions made for an exceptional strawberry crop this year.

"Strawberries are basically our first big start to the season financially," he said. "This is a pretty high-risk, high reward kind of a deal."

Country Creek offers Chandler, Sweet Charlie, Camarosa and Malwina varieties. U-pick is priced by the pound, Barnhart said. Customers can also buy already-picked berries at the produce stand.

They've also implemented a number of fun activities at the farm for families when they come to pick strawberries.

"On the weekends, we have a festival," Barnhart said. "We have inflatables, all sorts of stuff for the kids to do to occupy them while mom and dad can pick. Then we have food: strawberry pies, shortcake and ice cream."

Country Creek Produce holds festivals on the weekends to add more fun for families when they come to pick strawberries.

This year brought more people to the farm than usual, Barnhart said. On Memorial Day, nearly 800 people came to pick strawberries.

"It was 90 degrees and people will have their big hats on, tank tops, just picking away having a blast," Barnhart said. "That's what they want. They want to come out and be able to feel like they can spread out. I would almost rather see a few extra berries. I want it to be easy picking."

Country Creek farms 85 acres in its produce operation, along with traditional agriculture - like hay, corn and beans - with a grand total of about 350 acres.

If you're not able to make it out to pick this weekend, Barnhart said that next week could still be pretty good for harvesting. 

Country Creek Farm, located at 3746 Etter Rd, Chambersburg, offers pick-your-own strawberries every day from 9-5 p.m.

And strawberries are just the start.

Country Creek hopes to offer pick-your-own cherries and blueberries, peaches, flowers and pumpkins throughout summer and fall. 

In ten years' time, Barnhart aims to fully fund his farm through agricultural tourism, with weekly or bi-weekly festivals. While its not an easy operation to run, Barnhart loves welcoming people from all walks of life to Country Creek for a family-friendly experience.

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Where to go to pick your own strawberries

Franklin County

  • Country Creek Farm: 3746 Etter Rd, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania 17201
  • Maplewood Farm Market: 8564 Olde Scotland Rd Shippensburg, Pennsylvania 17257
  • The Drying Shed: 1587 Newcomer Rd Chambersburg, Pennsylvania 17202

Adams County 

  • Mt Joy Berry Farm: 351 Speelman Klingler Road, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 17325
  • Naylor Farm: 155 Clear Spring Road, Biglerville, Pennsylvania 17307
  • Swartz's Pumpkin Patch: 232 North High Street Arendtsville, Biglerville, Pennsylvania 17307

York County

  • Barefoot Farm: 6621 Bluebird Lane, Dover, Pennsylvania 1731
  • Forge Hill: 135 Blossom Dr, Mt Wolf, Pennsylvania 17347
  • Paulus Orchards: 522 East Mount Airy Road, Dillsburg, Pennsylvania 17019
  • The Truck Patch: 445 Shorbs Hill Rd, Pennsylvania 17331

Lebanon County

  • Honey Bear Orchards: 1819 Thompson Ave Lebanon, Pennsylvania 17046
  • Risser-Marvel Farm Market: 2425 Horseshoe Pike Annville, Pennsylvania 17003
  • Sauder's Strawberries: 40 Lengle Rd, Myerstown, Pennsylvania 17067

Have we missed your favorite U-Pick Patch? Let us know at cbonk@publicopinionnews.com

Carley Bonk is a Watchdog Reporter for the USA Today Network - Pennsylvania. Her coverage spans across the southcentral region of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at cbonk@publicopinionnews.com or on Twitter at @carls_marie.