By RACHAL PINKERTON
WAITSBURG — What do strawberries, garlic, greens, tomatoes, hay and garlic have in common? They are all grown by Dixie Acres Farm.
John and Lana Ash, owners of Dixie Acres Farm in Waitsburg, started their U-pick strawberry farm in 2014.
“My husband got a dream,” said Lana. “We started the farm with two purposes in mind – to have great education for our children and to provide high-quality produce.”
The Ashes have three children, ages 15, 18 and 20.
“Hard work outside is good to keep them healthy,” John said.
Strawberries are the main crop that the Ashes grow.
“We primarily grow strawberries,” said John. “We also grow alfalfa, garlic, greens, tomatoes and garlic. We’re not a big operation. We have six acres. We have enough to keep us busy.”
When the Ashes first started their strawberry patch, they planted 8,000 plants.
“We ended up having to mow over half of it,” Lana said. “We couldn’t keep up with weeds.”
Weeds are a part of growing anything, especially when you are organic.
“Strawberries are one of the crops with the highest amount of sprays,” said Lana. “Customers love us being organic.”
“We don’t put on pesticides and herbicides,” John said. “The goal is to make the soil healthy. If the soil is healthy, the plants are healthy. If the plants are healthy, the product is healthy. If the produce is healthy, it makes us healthy. Bugs don’t eat healthy produce grown on healthy soil.”
As a part of having healthy produce, the Ashes plant new strawberry plants each year. This year, they planted 1,500 plants.
“We have about an acre of base that we are maintaining,” said Lana.
The main kind of strawberries they grow are June bearing. The picking season lasts four to six weeks, usually starting the middle of June.
“We have a couple of weeks of peak picking,” Lana said. “There are a couple of weeks on either side that are not optimal. We grow some ever-bearing that we bring to (the) farmers market.”
The U-pick strawberry days are typically Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.
“We update our website, dixieacresfarm.com,” said Lana. “We put the up picking condition for the next U-pick day. It depends on the weather. It’s good to check the weather and wear appropriate clothing. Sometimes fields are a little muddy and you need to wear boots. It’s best to dress in layers and bring water.”
Picking hours depend on the day and usually happen either in the morning or evening. The website gives up-to-date picking information.
People coming to pick strawberries are encouraged to bring their own containers.
“We have two types of people out their picking,” John said. “People come out trying to get as much as possible. Others come out for the experience. We have goats and chickens. They like to pet the goats. It really is a fun experience for kids. We get a lot of homeschool families.”
“There also are birds,” said Lana. “It’s pretty. You’re welcome to bring a picnic.”
“One of our goals in doing the farm is to be a blessing to the community,” John said. “We have been blessed in the process.”
One of the ways that the Ashes use Dixie Acres Farm to bless people is through the local Christian aid center in Walla Walla.
“We invite them to pick for free,” said John.
In addition to having U-pick strawberries, the Ashes attend the College Place Farmers Market in Walla Walla. The farmers market meets at Lions Park on Thursday evenings from 4 to 8 p.m. through the end of September.
For picking information and prices, visit dixieacresfarm.com or call the hotline at 509-526-0112. Dixie Acres Farm is located at 570 Biscuit Ridge Rd. in Waitsburg.