Strawberry farm keeps tradition going

MICHELE NEWBANKS Special to the Times Rose Criss, 67, of West Union, W.Va. picked strawberries recently at Stacy Family Farm.

Sunshine and breezy weather isn’t just great weather to pick strawberries. It’s optimum for the growth of the strawberries themselves.

Bill Stacy of Stacy Family Farm in Reno knows a thing or two about the strawberry business. Farming has been in his family for six generations.

“We’ve been on this farm for seven years, but we’re starting the sixth generation,” he said. “The Ohio Century Farm has been here for over 100 years.”

With six acres of fields and approximately 90,000 strawberry plants, the farm is a busy place come springtime. The u-pick aspect of the farm has had people gathering buckets of the colorful berries since the Friday before Mother’s Day. The season will end around June 15.

“It always depends on the weather and the crops,” Stacy explained.

His farm isn’t just a place to pick strawberries. It’s also a place where school children can visit and learn more about the farm and its crops.

“We don’t bring kids in to entertain them,” Stacy said. “We bring them in to educate them.”

The field trips includes a slide show presentation of the history of the family and the farm, as well as a wagon ride. The students can also pick a pint of their own strawberries.

Stacy explained his wife, Janet, started about 20 years ago educating kids on the farm “with Harmar when our son was in second grade.”

They start booking field trips in January or February and have a little more than 3,000 students pass through their farm each year.

“We get people coming in to pick strawberries and they go back and tell their school teachers,” he said. “We had three or four school buses at one time in here (recently).”

Janet Stacy explained to students from Vinton Elementary in Gallia County, during a recent field trip that the strawberry fields are fertilized and planted in early fall when they are just starting back to school.

“It takes two days to get them all planted,” she said of the 90,000 strawberry plants.

Then they lay six acres of plastic, which will help keep the plants warm in the winter. The snow then will help as insulation, she explained.

Then in the spring, they take the plastic off and the berry plants get sunshine, which helps them grow and flourish. But it isn’t just strawberries that are grown by the Stacy Family.

“We started asparagus this year,” Stacy said, noting they also have blueberries and some blackberry plants.

“In the fall, we have a corn maze and pumpkins,” he added. The farm holds field trips in the fall “so we can talk to more schools about the farm.”

Depending on the weather, the blueberry season should start June 10-15, while their few blackberry plants will be ready in the late part of June.

In the meantime, people from all around the region are happy to drive to Reno to get fresh strawberries.

“I just want nice berries and this is the best place I found,” said 67-year-old Rose Criss of West Union, W.Va. who was picking there last week. She added she drove for more than an hour to pick strawberries at the farm.

“They’re picked over real good today,” she said. “I usually check Facebook and see when they are picking berries.”

The farm is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is located on Ohio 7, three miles north of Marietta, in Reno. Visit their website at stacyfarm.com.