Polk County Family Shares Strawberry Farm Story
PLANT CITY, Florida – The Plant City Strawberry Festival packed earlier this month, but here in Florida we’re celebrating the longest strawberry season of the year. So the festival is not the end of the season – for some farmers it is still the beginning.
“How do you get up and do it? You get up and go to work every day,” said Fancy Farms owner Carl Grooms. “If you decide to sleep for a few days and go to work without watering your plant, it could be dead.”
Carl Grooms said his father and grandfather before him were both farmers.
“My grandfather was from Arkansas. He was a farmer, my father too. He started farming here in Florida,” Grooms said.. “I grew up on the farm. That’s all I know how to do is farming.
Grooms told me that his family’s lifeline is closely tied to the 125 acres of crops that have produced millions of strawberries since he started Fancy Farms in 1974.
“When the price is right and the product is plentiful, you can make a lot of money,” Grooms said. “But every year it costs more. I just paid the biggest gas bill I’ve ever had, over $4,000. I have never spent so much. This is only a small part of the expenses.
Inflation has hit farmers just like other business owners responsible for supply costs, but Grooms told me events like the Strawberry Festival help.
“The Plant City area has always been considered the winter strawberry capital of the world — meaning there are no other berries being produced at this time,” Grooms said. “So the Strawberry Festival kicked this off and has continued for years and years.”
Grooms’ son, Dustin Grooms, told me the festival has been crucial to the farm’s success over the years.
“It boosts promotion, it helps our sales. We really need it during this time,” Dustin said. “We also like working with the staff. The Strawberry Festival is all about showcasing strawberries, and they do a good job of that. »
Both Dustin and his sister Kristi Grooms left to explore life off the farm after college, but each returned home to preserve the family legacy.
“We decided to do something a little special on the farm and open a market where we can offer the community wonderful desserts that have all been family recipes,” said Kristi Grooms. “We start harvesting our strawberries in November and the season doesn’t end until April. It’s not just strawberry party time, you can enjoy them all year round.”
Kristi and Dustin’s mother – the head of the house – DeeDee Grooms, told me that having her children near her home meant the world to her.
“It was awesome because you can raise your kids and be together every day,” DeeDee said. “We have lunch together and I cook lunch for all of us. It’s a family affair when your kids are there and it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Once strawberry season is over, the Grooms family will replace their desserts with flavors of blueberries and peaches.
“Our field that you see next to the market is full of sunflowers after the season, it’s a beautiful sight and we invite the public to come out,” Kristi Grooms said.