Strawberry farm going strong amid COVID-19 pandemic

by | Apr 17, 2020

Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Joan Rudd, owner of Rudd Farms, is one of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run for an entire year on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, our community continues to support strawberry farmers and boost sales. Many farms are offering curbside pickup or drive thru options in light of social distancing guidelines. Whether picked in the field or picked up in the driveway, people are enjoying local strawberries from places like Rudd Farms. Located in Greensboro, this well-known strawberry farm originally started as a tobacco farm. Growing up in the tobacco industry, Kenneth and Joan Rudd were both raised with a strong love of farming and agriculture.

Twenty years after the farm was founded, the family decided to make a switch from farming tobacco to farming strawberries and, a few years later, greenhouse vegetables. Growing from a little over 1 acre in 2000 to about 14 acres today, this switch has proven to be a huge success. “It had gotten harder to get tractors to and from our farm because of traffic and urbanization,” Joan said, “we were scared to death at first that no one would come out for the strawberries and veggies, but we have been overwhelmed at the response!” In 2005, the family started growing greenhouse and field vegetables like tomatoes, collards, pumpkins and okra. Today they have about 15 field acres as well as greenhouses for their vegetable operations.

Currently on the fourth generation, Rudd Farms is the true definition of a family operation. “It is completely family owned and operated,” Joan says, “I handle most of our stand management and deliveries, Kenneth is the farmer so he is planting and cutting land, our oldest son Ken ensures all planing and harvesting are done, and our youngest son Matt manages spraying and fertilizing.” Joan and Kenneth both hope that farming will stay in the family for generations to come. “It is a way of life that they have grown up with and I hope that continues,” Joan said.

According to Joan, the hardest part of farming is the uncertainty. “Farmers are optimists but there are many external factors that can cause worry, stress, and wreak havoc,” she says, “you have to be flexible, protect yourself and roll with the punches.” The amount of uncertainty, however, is incomparable to the fulfillment she receives from building relationships with customers and providing a quality product that they love and enjoy. “I get a lot of joy from hearing people say that they love our products because there is a lot of pride in what we do and it is rewarding to see them come back time and time again,” she said.

In addition to selling their products at their on-farm stand and the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, the family also sends some of their strawberries to Divine Foods to make preserves and jellies. The Undercurrent restaurant in Greensboro is one of many in the area that uses their products in a variety of dishes.

When it comes to fresh produce, the Rudd family isn’t picky as to how it is prepared. Joan’s favorite way to eat strawberries is straight out of the field when they are fresh and warm. The family also enjoys okra off their farm. “We love it just about any way you can fix it,” Joan jokes, “fried, grilled or baked with olive oil.”

When it comes to eating local, Joan says the quality of product is more fresh and safe. “People who don’t eat local don’t know what they are missing,” Joan says, “it’s fresher and you know it’s safe because the farmers feed it to their grandchildren, that they dearly love.” In the future, Joan hopes that the family farm will continue and grow under the care of her sons Ken and Matt. “The opportunities are wide open for them,” she said.

After a long day you can find Joan dancing to Happy by Pharrell Williams!