Tom Underwood of Warren couldn't resist the temptation last week when he saw all the vehicles packed along the driveway leading into Ridgeview Farm.
There was even a tour bus pulling in, giving the senior citizens on board a chance to cash in on the annual strawberry rush that started more than a week earlier than last year.
Underwood, a staff representative with the local laborer's union in Warren, said he was heading home from a meeting in Chardon when he noticed the commotion and the signs advertising the ''Pick Your Own'' harvest at the 101-acre farm run by Steve and Sharon Grover and their family.
''I couldn't pass this up. I'm all by myself. But hopefully my girlfriend will be making some jam soon,'' said Underwood.
Strawberry pickers at Canfield's White House Fruit Farm also were enjoying picking, and another year of a good crop, said Debbie Pifer. White House is located on state Route 62 just west of Canfield Village.
Pifer said this year's yield was about the same as last year, noting the ideal weather conditions for growing strawberries includes a warm spring, no frost and not a lot of rain.
Photo by R. Michael Semple
Grandmother Pam Perkins of Southington, left, picks strawberries while 3-year-old grandson Rocco Perkins inspects the harvest at Ridgeview Farm in Mesopotamia last week.
Farms in both Mahoning County and northern Trumbull County were seeing their strawberry crops peak a week or two earlier than usual this year.
In Mesopotamia, seniors on the bus only had time to stop in the roadside store at the farm where they were paying $4.50 a quart for the strawberries, or four dollars for six or more quarts.
Hand-picked, the strawberries at Ridgeview Farm were going for $1.79 a pound. A quart was about 1.5 pounds.
At Canfield's White House Farms, pick-your-own strawberries were $10.50 for four quarts. Inside the store, price was $4.25 per quart.
If you jump on one of the farm tractors that Steve Grover also uses for hay rides in Mespo, a customer can head back to two full acres filled with a variety of Jewels, Wendys, All Stars and Valley Sunsets. Wendys and Jewels are considered the sweetest, and Valley Sunsets are the largest. The Valley Sunsets won't be ripe until next week.
A 10-minute tractor ride past the soybean fields drops customers off at the perfect spot on a hillside, perfect to channel the rainwater away from the rows of strawberry plants.
''We were starting to pick on Memorial Day, probably 10 days earlier this year because of the weather,'' said Grover. ''Last year was wet. But this year, frost was the issue. The frost settles into the low-lying areas.''
Grover rotates between the two acres in the rear of the farm and a 1.5-acre site closer to the road that will be ready for picking next season.
Within 30 minutes, Hazel Barto of Cortland picked a full flat of strawberries at the northern Trumbull County farm. Tom Barzak of Kinsman brought his own containers and filled up five of them most for his wife Cindy to make some jelly.
Rebecca Klein of Middlefield comes to the field every year for between 50 and 80 pounds of strawberries. And she brought four other adults and three kids to help with the picking.
Klein said she operates a licensed bakery out of her home called Sweets and Stems and sells cakes and pastries to local golf courses and a coffee shop in Chardon.
''I'll be back another day to finish up and then I'll be canning. They're perfect for cakes and filling. In the fall, I head up to wine country and pick 150 pounds of grapes,'' Klein said.
Meanwhile, Mary Byler, 19, who lives next to Ridgeview Farm, supervises 15 to 20 Amish kids who pick the strawberries early in the morning.
''We want to be out of the field before it gets too hot,'' she said.