PONCHATOULA, La. (WGNO) — Festivalgoers will find Harris Seafood at the entrance of the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, but they will also find Harris Farm strawberries.
“I’ve sold strawberries for all of the Ponchatoula farmers and some of the Springfield farmers, and six years ago, I decided to take a leap of faith and start farming,” Harris Farm owner Trey Harris said.
Harris grew his farm from nearly 60,000 plants to nearly 150,000 plants, about 10 acres, and you can find Harris’ strawberries at all the Rouses locations, as well as the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival.
“The pros are being there,” Harris said. “You know, we’ve had a rough year this year with the weather coming hot and then freezing. We’ve had a lot of disease come in with our plants from the nursery, but all in all, it’s coming together right now; we’re very blessed.”
Harris employs workers with the federal H-2A program, a program that allows American farmers to temporarily hire workers from other countries.
Harris believes the opportunity has helped alleviate some of the industry’s hardships.
“I’m blessed to have these guys because I couldn’t pick strawberries like they do every day,” Harris explained. “These guys start here in August. We plant, we go through the cold weather, covering and uncovering our plants due to weather. My guys really take pride in us trying to be one of the best farmers in the market.”
Harris says strawberry farming is, unfortunately, a dying industry, so he asks that consumers remember him and his fellow farmers beyond the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival.
“We’re dependent on you locals to buy our berries. When you’re on the roadside, make sure it’s stamped. Make sure that farmers’ names are on there; that’s state-mandated. So, get out and support all your local farmers, not just me.”
You can catch the Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest, sponsored by WGNO on Friday, April 14 beginning at 12 p.m. The event runs through Sunday.
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