SPRINGFIELD, La. - There's a lot that's harvested on the Threeton family farm: family values, respect for nature, the importance of hard work, determination and resilience.
There are the usual crops too, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, squash, watermelon and cantaloupe. But the top crop is the shiny red fruit that the region is known for, and if you follow the signs down Bill Threeton Road, you'll discover four fields with around a hundred thousand plants that are producing the sweet berries.
Strawberries are responsible for about half the farm's income, according to Lennie Threeton, who proudly carries on the family tradition, now in its fourth generation.
But this year, Lennie has been spending a little less time in the field. He's been busy with a royal schedule as this year's Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival King.
"I didn't know if I wanted to do it. I guess my kids talked me into it," he says with a smile.
His daughter Justine says her dad doesn't even wear a baseball cap much, so a royal crown is a big deal.
"It definitely got him out of his comfort zone, and probably me too, because I'm more like him, reserved, and this is out of our element. He definitely deserves it. He's the hardest working man I know," she says, beaming with pride.
She and her sisters love the sweet berries; ironically, King Lennie doesn't really like the taste - but he will take a bite or two while strolling the fields, for quality control purposes.
Lennie's dad was Strawberry Festival King in 1981, and his great grandfather planted the very first berries on the family farm in 1926.
Lennie remembers selling berries at the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival with his uncle when he was a teenager. He says his first real job was at a chemical plant, but after four days, he returned to the farm - and never looked back!
He says one of the biggest lessons he's learned from years of farming strawberries is the importance of patience. During a season like this one, early weeks of cold and rain meant a tough start, but good weather prevailed and on a peak day, the farm will pick 600 flats.