by Adam Ghassemi
PORTLAND, Tenn. – Ralph Cook waits for the same payoff every year and it has nothing to do with how many strawberries he grows.
"There's nothing prettier than seeing a lot of kids out in the strawberry patch picking strawberries,” he said Thursday.
Cook’s patch at Bottom View Farm opened Wednesday. The berries may be a $1.80/lb. if you pick them, but the other lessons are free.
"I think our kids need to know where our food comes from,” Cook said.
Ron Jones drove his wife and grandchildren all the way from Brentwood.
"They're just sweeter,” Jones said. "You can just tell a difference when you get them on the plate."
Cook’s crop came in nicely, but it's the second season in a row that almost didn't happen.
It’s usually ready the last week of April, but cold weather pushed that back. Cook says the extreme winter and Polar Vortex delayed his berries at least ten days. Just a few weeks ago, a late freeze threatened them again.
"It's the coldest time I've seen on strawberries since I've been in business. I was afraid I wasn't going to have anything,” he said.
This isn't the first time they've had to fight weather. Last season, they were in jeopardy because of heavy winter rain.
"We lost our peach crop and apple crop last year from too much rain,” Cook said.
Despite the battle, the crop does seem to be ok for this brief window so many wait to arrive.
"I wouldn't want to swap places with them, but I sure am thankful for them,” Jones said.
Thursday the owners of nearby Crafton Farms and England Strawberry Farms, which grow a different way without plastic on their rows, say their berries will take even longer to ripen.
The Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival in Portland will take place this weekend.?