CORINTH — The mantra for the Adams family goes something like this: “We get what the good Lord gives us.”
This year, that’s a near-perfect strawberry season with fields full of plump, juicy fruit ripe for the picking.
But it hasn’t always been that way.
Despite their soft exteriors, the Adamses have had a lot of hardship during the past few years: illness, death, theft and family discord. But through it all, there was always the farm.
A dream realized
Adams Strawberry Acres is a bit of a misnomer, because the farm is home to cattle, several acres of vegetables, blueberries and raspberries. But strawberries started it all.
Decades ago, patriarch Joseph Adams and his wife, Carol, piled their children into an old Plymouth Fury 3 when their son, Bill, was 7 years old. He’s now the farm manager. They drove to Massachusetts and bought acres worth of strawberry plants.
In the days, weeks and months that followed, they plowed, planted and fulfilled a lifelong dream — to own a farm that provides fresh food and family memories to locals.
“The biggest thing for my dad was to have people bring their kids and have a good time — that’s the fun of it,” Anne Ford said. “It’s a tradition, something families look forward to doing. People did it as kids, and now they’re taking their own kids.”
On a recent June day, Surry resident Michelle Beckwith, her mother and two sons picked strawberries in the warm sun, stopping occasionally to taste a few.
Beckwith and her family head to a local farm each summer and pick upwards of 20 quarts of strawberries. Beckwith said she loves that she’s teaching her children, ages 13 and 21, about the importance of supporting local agriculture.
“If you can support local, you should. Live here, shop here, keep your money here,” she said. “It’s worth the time, and it’s building memories.”
A challenging year
During the past few years, Carol Adams’ health deteriorated. She had muscular dystrophy and was unable to leave her bed, requiring around-the-clock care. Much of that fell to Joseph Adams, who on June 26 was so worried about his wife, he chose not to leave her side to talk with Bangor Daily News reporters. She died later that day.
“She [was] the boss, the queen. She always took care of everything,” Bill Adams said with tears in his eyes.
For years, Carol and Joseph managed the farm together. These days, Bill Adams and Ford manage the farm and share stories about Carol’s contribution.
One day last year, Carol was missing. Bill searched the property and discovered she had dragged herself out to the raspberry field and was crawling from plant to plant, harvesting. Another day, while Bill and his father were busy, she baled hay just in time for a major rainstorm that would’ve destroyed most of the crop.
This year, when the first strawberry appeared, Bill Adams picked it and brought it up to the old, white farmhouse for his mother to try. He prepared it just the way she likes them — with a little sugar — and she gave a nod of approval.
A good season
Despite the cool weather that has some farmers worried about the upcoming season, this year has been a great year for berries, Bill Adams said. Strawberries in particular thrive in climates that have plenty of rain followed by cool sunny days, which is exactly what spring 2015 brought.
“Our berries may be smaller than the ones you’d find in the grocery store from California, but ours are better,” he said. “We’re more of an old-fashioned pick-your-own taste.”
Strawberry season at the Adams farm began the weekend of June 20 this year and most likely will last a good five weeks. So far, more than 400 people have been through the field and last week plump, deep-red strawberries were overflowing from quart-sized containers being carried out by pickers young and old.
Beckwith said she was impressed by the number of berries at the Adams farm, especially after being at another pick-your-own strawberry field, and said the berries there were hard and too tart.
It’s exactly what the Adams family needed this year.
“It hasn’t been easy, but we love each other. It’s good to be together, and it’s a good year [for berries],” Bill Adams said.
Want to pick strawberries this season? Bill Adams offered the following tips:
— Wear light-colored clothing that will keep you cooler in the sun.
— Bring water.
— Pick berries while crawling on your knees in order to save your back.
— Look underneath the plant and in patches of weeds. Often the best berries are hiding.