In the early hours of morning there’s a chill in the air, but as the sun rises the temperature soars. Dewdrops gather on every blade of grass, green leaf and emerging flower; a sure sign spring is coming to an end and summer is quickly approaching. This is when strawberries are at their peak. When bright-red seed-dappled berries start to appear, hidden under the plant’s dense dew-soaked leaves
Around the end of May, 15 acres of strawberry fields at Morning DEW Orchards will begin to bear the much-beloved red fruit. Strawberries have a short season in Northeast Ohio and can be enjoyed locally for only about four to six weeks, ending around the last week of June. “And of that, there’s only three weeks of prime picking,” explained third-generation farmer Doug Woolf.
Woolf grew up on his parents’ dairy farm, which transitioned to an orchard over the years. When he grew older, his mom wanted him to go to college. “She didn’t want me to be a farmer,” Woolf chuckled. “Farming’s hard work.”
Off to college Woolf went, where he got a degree in teaching. He spent nine years as a teacher, going back to school for a masters in business administration along the way. When he lost his teaching position in North Carolina due to cutbacks, Woolf and his wife, Noelle, were presented with an opportunity to return to his roots. Woolf ‘s grandparents were retiring, so the couple decided to buy his grandparents’ farm and named it after reading a scripture that said, “He blessed the dew of the land. . .”
After buying the farm, one of the first things Woolf learned from his customers was that they wanted a variety of fresh fruit, available for more time throughout the year. When apples ran out, they wanted a new crop there to take their place. The orchard had been dedicated strictly to apples, but Woolf soon added strawberries, as well as other crops, to extend the farm’s season.
Strawberries have been a big seller for the farm. Each year, Morning DEW Orchards adds an additional 5,000–10,000 strawberry plants and regularly sells out of their bountifully packed quarts at every farmers market they attend.
Many of his customers have never tasted a strawberry this fresh. “Most grocery store strawberries are from California or Florida. By the time you buy them, they’re days old, at best,” explained Woolf. “We pick our strawberries hours before we sell them. If the market is in the afternoon, we pick them early in the morning. If the market is in the morning, we’re picking them the evening before.”
This all makes for an incredible difference in taste. “They’ve got a sweet aroma. They’re fresh. They’re delicious. They’re juicy, as [my son] Elijah would say,” Woolf said.
It’s been four years since Woolf returned to farming and he looks forward to the season ahead, saying, “I enjoy seeing something grow, not just the crops, but seeing a business grow. I enjoy growing the food and the challenge of trying to make it better.”
Morning DEW Orchards’ strawberries, and their other produce—such as asparagus, apples, sweet corn, peaches, plums, and grapes—can be found at several farmers markets throughout Northeast Ohio, including Tremont Farmers Market, Haymaker Farmers Market, and Countryside Conservancy’s Farmers Markets.
* Author’s Confession: I once ate a whole quart of Morning DEW Orchard strawberries by myself, while standing in front of my fridge with the door open.
Want to know what’s in season and where you can find it? Visit MorningDewOrchard.com or call 704.320.2764.