By Linda Brewer

Every year thereâ€TMs one question in particular thatâ€TMs heard loud and clear all over Tennessee, starting about mid­May. Heard from kids and adults alike, not to mention on local news programs and in produce departments, is the question, “Are the strawberries ripe yet?” The lusciously sweet and juicy, fiber­filled strawberry, is arguably the most eagerly anticipated produce of the season. For most Southerners, more than just taste, itâ€TMs a flashback to childhood; fresh strawberry pie, homemade strawberry jams, jellies and preserves, strawberry freezer jam, strawberry shortcake, strawberry salad and strawberries just for plain ole finger­lickinâ€TM healthy nibblinâ€TM.

Actually, whether the berries are ripe isnâ€TMt the first concern of farmers and berry lovers in the state, but rather if that ever­present late frost of the winter­to­spring season was bad enough, lengthy enough or late enough to hurt or even destroy our strawberry crop for the year ­ and up the prices dramatically. When that late frost occurs, as it invariable does, farmers put down straw and/or fabric crop covers, tucking the berries lovingly into their outdoor beds in an effort to keep them warm; much like a treasured child is swaddled on a cold winterâ€TMs night. Hopefully the last late frost of 2015 has come and gone, and the farmers predict that without further cold snaps, our crops this year will be bountiful and sweet.

With the news that strawberries are safe and blooming, people all over the state begin deciding when and where they will purchase or pick their jelly­pie­cake­salad­eatinâ€TM strawberries; berry enthusiasts canâ€TMt afford to wait until the last minute where these short­seasoned gems are concerned. If you are a post­picked purchaser, the “where” choices are numerous, with road­side trucks, fruit stands and farmers markets popping up all over the state. If you are a pick­them­ yourself­purchaser, your choices arenâ€TMt quite so widespread, though there are a number of farms across the state that offer the pick â€~em yourself service. One such farm that sits conveniently just outside the Nashville area is Kelleyâ€TMs Berry Farm.

This family­run family­friendly farm is located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Trousdale County. This little town just outside of Gallatin, Tn. only boasts a few hundred residents, all in a 96 square mile area. That little area houses Bledsoeâ€TMs Fort Historical Park and a pick­you­own berry farm, to name but two.

While the park protects the 18th century Bledsoeâ€TMs Station, itâ€TMs the brothers Kelley who have the job of protecting Tennesseeâ€TMs most beloved berry. Unfortunately, nature just doesnâ€TMt always seem to cooperate. Patrick Kelley, brother and berry farm partner to Jon, says that the last frost so far this year only did minor damage and hopes it was the last one for the year. But, he says with a grimace in his voice, that he remembers last year. It was April 16, “A year ago tomorrow,” he recalls. “It was one of the latest frosts on record (locally) and it destroyed a lot of our strawberry crop.” The southern berry farmer went on to say, “We (brothers Jon and Pat) enjoy doing what we do, but itâ€TMs a gamble. Sometimes itâ€TMs like gambling in Vegas.” The Kelley brothers are accustomed to the ups and downs of farming, having done it all their lives, even during high school. When asked if the two brothers grew up on a farm, Patrick answers yes. When asked if their dad was a farmer, Patrick laughs without a hint of resentment, “Dad was a physician. He liked farming. But we (Pat and Jon) did the farming for him.” Perhaps the father, now­deceased, knew exactly what he was doing; the boysâ€TM exposure to farming obviously fostered a love that would carry on as their lifelong careers. Perhaps thatâ€TMs just what the doctor ordered.

Do the sons Pat and Jon follow their own fatherâ€TMs footsteps, when it comes to their own kids working on the farm? “The kids sell for us. But they donâ€TMt work on the farm. All of our kids are in college, but they do like to sell for us. We sell in so many different places, we couldnâ€TMt do it without them.”

Itâ€TMs a family venture, with brothers Patrick and Jon at the helm, assisted by Patâ€TMs wife Cathy, their two children Katie and James, as well as Jonâ€TMs two kids Jenn and Hunter. What do families get out of the “pick your own” system? “This is a great way to see exactly where the berries are coming from and how they are grown.” What kind of farming do you strive for? “Our farming practices include cover crops in the winter, crop rotations and integrated pest management. We use horse manure on our berry plants for organic matter,” farmer Kelley states. Whatâ€TMs new this year? “New to our farm products is homemade blueberry jam,” Kelley answers, “ This the first year we are selling our jam. This coming season we will be adding strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, and peach jam. We hope everyone will give them a try. We strive in growing high quality and great tasting berries. Over the years we have learned many things to do, and many things not to do, in growing the best berries. I hope all berry lovers give our berries a taste.”

Itâ€TMs pretty obvious in speaking with the Kellys, that whether you would rather buy your berries picked or do it yourself, you can count on this family to help you get it done.

LISA: I figured you could add contact info above or the below as a sidebar? And the website address you and they have, even on LT website, does not work. Also the email below is the only one they respond to. I Not sure if you are looking for a sidebar, but hereâ€TMs one I can offer:

Kelleyâ€TMs Berry Farm Contact Information Patrick Kelley 615­633­1426
Jon Kelley 615­633­7447
Address: 50 Riverview Estates Ln Castilian Springs, TN 37031 Email the Kelleys at:
kelleysberryfarm@hotmail.com
Or find them on Facebook @ Kelley's Berry Farm Berry Buying and Picking Seasons
Strawberries. May­ June
Blackberries. June­ July
Blueberries. July­August

Raspberries. August­ September
Peaches. July
Farmers Markets where you can buy Kelley produce and products: Franklin Farmers Market
Main Street Saturday Market of Murfreesboro 12 South Farmers Market
East Nashville Farmers Market
Vanderbilt Farmers Market
Hip Donelson Farmers Market
West Nashville Richland Park
West End Farmers Market
Farmers Market at the Crossings