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Berry, berry strawberry

Jerry Bell sorts freshly picked strawberries. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Jerry Bell sorts freshly picked strawberries.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Whidbey Islanders rejoice: Thursday marks the start of the 50th strawberry season at Bell’s Farm off West Beach Road.

The farm, locally famous for its sun-ripened berries, began in 1946 after the Bell family moved to the area. The strawberry operation got its start with a one-acre patch in 1949. Over the years the berry patch grew to 15 acres, but this season it maxed-out at four, said Jerry Bell, the last living Bell family member other than his wife Evelyn.

“The crop looks good at this point,” he said.

The farm springs to life around 8 o’clock in the morning when more than 50 kids take to the fields, armed with wooden buckets and the desire to pick the crimson-colored berries for 17 cents a pound.

“We have a large berry size this year, and at this point the kids are working really well,” he said.

Earlier this week Bell, his nephew Frank Mueller and family-like friends spent the morning collecting and sorting the kids’ berries.

“The berries are just crazy good this year,” said Mueller.

First-year strawberry picker Emily Golden, fingers stained bright red from the luscious fruit, worked the plants over with ease.

“It’s really cool,” she said.

A few rows over, veteran picker Megan Oaks said she returned to the field because she enjoys the picking and there isn’t much else to do during the summer.

Bell estimates the four-acre patch will yield about 30 tons this year. Berry lovers can find Bell’s strawberries at the farm, in local markets and next to the Oak Harbor 7-Eleven near Burger King.

Those looking to experience the joy of berry picking can do so at the farm, and take home their own candy-sweet strawberries for $1.25 a pound.

Further north at Dugualla Bay Farms, Shari Meagher mans the produce stand. Meagher started 21 years ago making jam for the farm. Before long, she took over the books and then her duties expanded to the farm stand.

“I love it,” she said. “I meet a lot of people. We have regulars that come in and share their berry and produce recipes.”

Four to five experienced adult pickers now work the field, she said, although 50 to 100 kids will be added soon to help with the influx of berries. While strawberry season only runs through mid-July, the best pickers will be kept on staff to help with the ensuing raspberry, tayberry, loganberry and marionberry harvests.

Dugualla Bay Farms welcomes U-pickers from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to pick their own at $1.19 a pound.

Where to pick

Bell’s Farm is located at 892 W. Beach Rd., Coupeville. Call 678-4808 for more information.

Dugualla Bay Farms is located at 36699 Highway 20, Oak Harbor. Call 679-2192 for more information.

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