Southwest Georgia U-Pick Strawberry Operation Going Strong After 22 Years

Moultrie, GA

Beautiful skies, rows of ripe strawberries, and family time – things you can find on U-pick operations across the state, just like this one, Ochlockonee Ridge Farms in Moultrie. A strawberry operation started by the Hart family more than two-decades ago when they decided to diversify their family farm and create a place for people to enjoy.

“We are a diversified farm. We also do cotton, peanuts, small grains, and cattle. We are in a very competitive area; there’s some very good farmers in this area, so the competition for land is pretty intense, so we had to figure out a way to increase profitability, and so, my sister came up with this idea; she had been to Washington Farms outside of Athens and Clarke County, and my dad had just retired as a vocational ag teacher and thought it may be something that would fit. Since that time we have expanded it, as far as the U-Pick business and we do a little bit of direct sales, whole selling red strawberries to end users which would be cafeterias, mainly schools,” says Farm Manager, Trey Hart.

This year is their twenty-second crop, and as you can see, they’ve got tons of perfectly ripe berries ready to be picked. However, getting them to this point hasn’t been easy, as Hart says mother nature has been tricky.

“We started with eighty degree temperatures in February, really set a crop and that came in early March and I thought, ‘man we’re about to be off to the races,'” says Hart. “Since that time, it’s just been kind of cool and warm, alternating with little spats of rain, but the rain has come in such a way this year that it really has not affected my quality very much, but I like for my growth curve to go up very quickly once we start picking and this year it’s been a very slow increase and we just haven’t been able to get the real volume that I want but I will say we’ve had good participation.”

Good participation indeed. In fact, Hart says that since the days of COVID, their business has grown year over year, so much so that they’re planning on expanding their patch – something he says hasn’t happened in more than a decade.

“We originally had better than three acres of strawberries. We cut that back to one and a half acres and then we built that back up to what we have currently, which is about two acres,” says Hart. “If you look out in the field over my shoulder, where those flags are, we’re going to expand the patch a little bit for the first time in about twelve years and that’s to better service my wholesale buyers, my school systems, which we deal with most of the surrounding school systems, as well as keep my U-pick business happy, because my whole hallmark is that we don’t pick anything that is not red, ripe, and ready to be used.”

By: John Holcomb