For the producer, the 2022 festival will be a bittersweet occasion | Community

STILWELL – Today, Adair County strawberry growers are continuing a long tradition for the farming community, and their efforts will be rewarded this weekend at the annual Stilwell Strawberry Festival.

Rick Longshore picked 14 pints of Galletta and Early Glo strawberries last Wednesday – the first for 2022. He grows strawberries because he likes to eat them, but he also likes the challenge.

“I like to lift something that people will come back to ask for more,” Longshore said.

Much of that first batch of berries went to volunteer takers at Stilwell High School via Katie Longshore.

It has 20 rows, each 100 feet long.

“It’s about half an acre,” he said.

With the rain, he speculates on the quality of his products for the festival.

“I don’t know if I will have the best for the festival, maybe sooner. But if I have any, I’ll bring some, said Longshore.

He is mainly a poultry farmer and owns 50 head of cattle. He was raised by a parent in the late 1980s.

“My wife’s father [Andrew Cain] wanted to do it. We’ve been doing it since the late 80s. He passed away now, a few years ago,” he said.

His own father, Leroy Longshore, also grew berries at one time.

“In the late 50s and 60s, if they were growing at all, they were growing berries. There was, however, a market for them: Stilwell Foods. At the time, the people who picked them would skin them and then quarter them for the cannery,” Longshore said.

When the market stopped, the culture stopped too, he said.

“But back then, all these producers, that’s what made it popular,” he said.

Growing berries is labor intensive.

“You don’t just plant them and they come back. You have to spend the whole summer with them. They don’t ripen at the same time, so some come off early and some last longer in the summer,” Longshore said.

As for the 75th Diamond Jubilee Strawberry Festival this weekend, Longshore plans to attend if it has any worthy of the competition and expects it to have berries to sell. But it will be a bittersweet occasion.

It was with his wife, Andrea, that he became active by participating in the festival.

“I go there every year with my wife since we met. She died last year on the weekend of the festival, Sunday May 13,” he said.

In the Strawberry Festival booklets that Kiwanis create each year, there is a dedication to the volunteer who will be sorely missed this season.

“They put a nice piece on her,” Longshore said.

Comments are closed.