Don and Ginger Autrey, who live on Prospect Rd. in Monroe County, began growing strawberries about three years ago. This is the third growing season and second year of selling.
The farm, which is called D & G Farms, has been swamped with people wanting strawberries. In fact, they have some customers who place very large orders. They also go to the farmer’s markets in Columbus, Starkville, and Tupelo.
They have 18,000 strawberry plants and during peak season, they pick an average of 200-500 pounds per day. The season peaks around May 6. They will have strawberries through Mother’s Day weekend.
“There is a short-picking season for strawberries,” Don said. “It is usually three to six weeks, depending on the weather.”
Don Autrey, who is a nurse, works during the winter months for Gilbert Home Health and Trace Regional.
Ginger is also a registered nurse, but now works from home for Abbott Vascular. She has to travel occasionally with her job.
The Autreys recently adopted two children, Abbygail and Glen Allen. They are enjoying having the children grow up helping them with the farm and the goats, chickens, pigs, cows, and donkeys they are raising.
“I have excellent employers who work with me,” Don said. “I had always wanted to farm, but it takes lots of money for row cropping. Growing strawberries and other vegetables has enabled me to realize my farming dream.”
The Autreys have 17 acres in farming. They should have zucchini, cucumbers and squash in a couple of weeks. Some of the other vegetables they grow are asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts,two kinds of garlic, eggplants, leeks, shallots, peas, cantaloupes, green beans, okra, watermelons, and pumpkins. They plant all of the bell peppers, along with habanero, jalapeno, anaheim, serrano, chile pepper,Thai, and cayenne peppers.
They have some fruit trees ad blackberries.
“We grow any veggies that people in this area would want,” said Don.
They will have 10,000 tomato plants this year. Last year they had a problem with tomato blight, but have planted blight-resistant tomato plants this year.
Don said he had had a lot of help from M. C. Ellis of Mayhew and Mississippi State Extension Service in getting his farm up and running. He tries to use as little chemicals as possible on his farm. He uses nutrients as much as possible. He is proud of the fact that his son can pick strawberries off the vine and eat it immediately.
Don and Ginger are helped out in the farm by his father, Don Sr., and his wife, Paulina. Don Sr. recently retired as a police chief in Oklahoma. He and Paulina are currently helping with the farming operation and enjoying the grandchildren.
Alice Ortiz/Monroe Journal