Strawberry farm makes strong comeback under new ownership
A pick-your-own strawberry farm that has been closed since 2014 is making a strong comeback this season under new ownership
By 8 a.m., Johanna Storm already had mud on her boots. And when the ink on the paperwork dries, the Texas A&M graduate will be the new owner of Storm Farms, formerly Gnismer Farms, a seven-acre plot in Dalworthington Gardens.
Storm grew up in DeSoto, studied agriculture, and has worked at the Dallas Arboretum, but this is her first "real" farming experience, she says, and it has all been an unexpected but pleasant surprise.
"[The farm] was closed for a couple years," she said. "This is the first season we've been open. It's good to see it opened back up."
On Tuesday, the 30-year-old was readying for another round of berry picking at the farm whose gates re-opened last week. She says each day that the patch has been open, all of the ripe strawberries have been stripped clean.
"I would open each day if I could," she said. "But we have to give the strawberries a chance to ripen between pickings."
Brushing back a wisp of ginger-colored hair, Storm said despite having a degree in horticulture, managing the irrigation and placing the giant plastic covers over the berries in cold weather has been a challenge.
“Putting those out the first time was, like, a hysterical mess,” she laughed. “It has been a lot of learning.”
Five of the farm’s acres are planted with strawberries. And Storm, who says she does most of the work herself, has plans for a pumpkin patch for the fall.
As she talked, a black and white dog ran up with two tail-wagging friends close behind. All of the dogs, she says, were rescued from pounds or shelters. The animals seemed content with the wide open space much like the farm’s visitors who Storm says come for the outdoor experience, family time, or to show their children how food grows from the earth.
“It doesn’t grow on shelves,” she said, adding that the place also gives people a chance to “spend some time with people you love … and support a local business.”
Storm looked at other properties in the area but chose Dalworthington Gardens, she said, because of its centralized location and because the property was already zoned for agriculture. She does not use any chemicals on the strawberries and is working on becoming organic certified, which she says will take some time.
“These are very healthy strawberries,” she added. “You can eat them straight out of the field, if you want to.”
Storm has talked with Kimberly Fitzpatrick, Dalworthington Gardens’ mayor, about what the City would like to see happen in the area, she says, and an organic restaurant is on that list. However, she noted that she is much more experienced at growing food than restaurant management.
Fitzpatrick says while there are no solid plans in the works, the City would like to see farmers markets filled with fresh, organic produce, breads, and jams in the future.
“We love the idea of the markets because agriculture is a big part of our City’s heritage” Fitzpatrick wrote in an email.
Fitzpatrick explained how Dalworthington Gardens was established as a subsistence homestead project during the Great Depression. The homestead program was administered by the Department of the Interior, and its goal was to help families improve their standard of living through a combination of part-time industrial employment and subsistence agriculture.
“The idea was to locate homestead projects near large industrial centers where city workers could live, grow gardens, and raise farm animals to supplement their regular food supplies,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “Dalworthington Gardens was one of five such projects located in Texas and the only one still in existence today.”
Storm admits that at $10 per pound-and-a-half, her strawberries are a little pricier than the local supermarket, but visitors do not seem to mind.
“We just got back from our first visit,” wrote Dawn Candler on the farm’s Facebook page. “My boys are so excited to eat these strawberries. They are beautiful.”
Storm says Girl Scouts as well as after school and special needs groups have also visited the farm and she may consider hosting events there in the future. But for now, she’s content with simply farming and sharing with others how food grows from tiny seeds in the dirt and in seasons.
“I just like everything about it,” she said.
Storm Farms, located at 3010 S. Bowen Road, is open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
(Photography courtesy Russ Rendon / Arlington Voice)