Rita Vavrosky vividly remembers the first time she picked strawberries at a Carlton County farm.
She remembers driving her four young daughters down the rural roads to the fields and how they nearly turned around, fearing they would get lost. She also remembers feeling surprised when she learned she could bring her daughters into the field, formerly known as Finke's Berry Farm, to pick.
More than 20 years later, she is now a co-owner of the farm and her feelings have changed to anticipation as she prepares for its opening.
For many others in northern Minnesota, picking strawberries is a family affair — and its season is about to begin. Weather dependent, pickers of all ages can peruse the rows of strawberries at Spectrum Farm Strawberries starting Wednesday at 9 a.m. But, the farm’s opening date may move as weather changes.
The all-natural farm, located south of Duluth, is home to around three acres of strawberries. Throughout its two- to three-week season, co-owner Steve Schulstrom estimates the two fields will welcome thousands of pickers.
It’s Schulstrom and Vavrosky's first year operating the farm without significant help from the former owners Doug and Diane Finke, who operated it for 32 seasons.
The new owners faced a steep learning curve when they obtained the fields. “We had no idea just how many different things we didn’t know about. … But so many people just love it, so it’s worth it,” Vavrosky said.
Schulstrom said he has a variety of feelings about the opening. "(I'm) joyous, anxious, excited — you put them all together,” he said. However, he is apprehensive about the weather cutting into Wednesday’s picking time, or it resulting in a Thursday opening instead.
“The berries are ready right now. … If I wait until Thursday, I’m going to lose (them),” he said.
For Vavrosky, she’s excited to see acquaintances. “It’s getting hard to hold onto all of the excitement,” she said.
On opening day, visitors can grab buckets and wander up and down the rows to find and pluck the best strawberries. Berries are $15 per 5-quart pail and $12 per 4-quart pail, according to the farm’s website.
Strawberry picking, for many, is a family tradition, Vavrosky said. They keep the first few rows near the edge of the fields to accommodate families with young children and those who have strollers or mobility devices.
Compared to other farms, Schulstrom said they take things slower at Spectrum. This, he said, matches the longstanding “philosophy” of the strawberry fields.
“When they come across the threshold … you kind of watch them decompress,” he said. “And that’s just fun to watch.”
If you go
Spectrum Farm Strawberries, formerly known as Finke's Berry Farm, is located at 2332 County Road 4. It is expected to open Wednesday at 9 a.m. for a few hours, weather dependent.
Strawberries are $15 per 5-quart pail and $12 per 4-quart pail. Buckets are available for to use for picking, but visitors must bring their own containers to bring purchased strawberries home. The farm only accepts cash or checks.