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Pick juicy strawberries at Shlagel Farms

Shlagel Farms strawberries baynet

WALDORF, MD-- Despite losing 75 percent of their strawberry crops to the rainy weather, Shlagel Farms has fields full of juicy strawberries to pick for yourself or buy by the quart.

If you have the opportunity to pick your own strawberries this year, look for red firm and glossy berries, said Russ Shlagel, owner and operator of the over 200 acre farm.

“Dull red and purplish are over ripe.  We charge $3.19 a pound, for pick your own and $5.50 per quart for pre-picks,” said Shlagel. “My favorite fruit is strawberries!  I like to grow them, eat them, and sell them.  I even like the color red.”

Shlagel Farms has been providing the community with the juicy berries since 2000, said Shlagel.

“This is probably the worst season we’ve had for strawberries ever since we started this,” said Shlagel. “There has been too much rain, and not enough sunshine for the berries. We’ve had to throw out so much product. But there are plenty of berries to pick.”

Most of the customers that come in to pick berries are school students and mothers, said Shlagel.

“We also raise in larger amounts specific crops to satisfy the wholesale needs of our larger customers like Giant Food, Anne Arundel  County School System. We also work with restaurants in Washington D.C. like Clydes and Sweet Greens,” said Shlagel.

All of the markets the farm attends are on their web site, said Shlagel.

“With the exception of a special Farmers Market that we are doing in Anne Arundel County this year in front of Brooklyn Park Elementary School on Mondays, in cooperation with several agencies that have the mission of feeding healthy food to people with limited access, my three grown sons will represent the farm at markets in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC ,” said Shlagel. “We are also participating in the Anne Arundel County Saturday Riva Market for a very limited time at their invitation.”

Shlagel Farms should not be considered as agri-entertainment, said Shlagel.

“We don’t host any festivals at our farm.  We don’t consider ourselves agri-entertainment.  We are a working farm,” said Shalgel. “We allow people to pick strawberries in May and early June and pumpkins in October. We do host a limited amount of school field trips in May and October which are designed to educate the young children and their parents about agriculture.  Our target audience is 3-7 year olds.”

Shlagel Farms works diligently to provide quality produce and products, said Shlagel.

“When you dedicate a percentage of your food buying dollar to buying local you are strengthening your local farm economy. People should come here and expect to find plenty of safe, quality and nutritious products,” said Shlagel. “We try to keep our fields clean and have a lot of berries on hand so they have plenty to pick and have a fun time. We welcome and encourage all ages to give it a try. “

The farm also offers a buyers’ club to people interested in purchasing fresh local produce and other products, said Shlagel.

“Every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to noon, we have a buyers club which runs up until December.  The customer gets an email on Tuesday that tells them what we are picking that week and how much it will cost them. They email back what they would like and it is packaged for them and ready to go on Saturday morning,” said Shlagel.

Through the Buyers’ Club, customers get an opportunity to see what happens on a daily basis on the farm, said Shlagel.

“My son runs the club, and last year he had a walk in the tomato field where he discussed tomatoes at length and allowed the customers to pick, and he had a feed the calf day that brought more adults than kids, as well as cider tasting and more, “ said Shlagel. “As well as all of the fruits and vegetables that we raise, we also offer our own brown eggs from cage free chickens that get no antibiotics or hormones.  This year we also began to offer our all natural beef and pork which has been a real hit with the customers.”

The farm, located in Waldorf, is like most in Southern Maryland. He is the third generation of the family to own and operate the farm, said Shlagel.

“We were a traditional tobacco farm until 1988 when my father and I switched fully into fruits and vegetables.  We did not participate in the Maryland Tobacco buyout. The vegetables are our bread and butter, so to speak,” said Shlagel. “We’re a Century family farm and the land has been continuously owned by a Shlagel since 1911.”

Jacqui Atkielski can be contacted at j.atkielski@thebaynet.com.

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