MAYVILLE — Faith, family and farming — those are the priorities that Tim and Danielle Clark kept in mind as the strawberry season began on their newly purchased property just east of Mayville, which they named Mayberry Farms.
Danielle was born and raised in Beaver Dam, and was the 2010 Dodge County Fairest of the Fair. Her dad, Charlie Hammer, is a fourth-generation grain farmer. Tim grew up on a dairy farm in LeRoy and his dad is also a fourth-generation farmer who currently raises beef cattle and grain alongside Tim’s two brothers.
Danielle said she and Tim shared the same dream of owning and operating a farm.
“Because farming is in our blood, we always talked about farming together, not necessarily being on the family farms but forging our own path,” Danielle said. “We were keeping our options open and believed God would take us where we should go.”
When the Wayne and Cindy Zastrow farmstead became available, the Clarks’ whirlwind adventure began.
“We started the process with Wayne and Cindy back in March and had to get all the loans and get our house in Beaver Dam sold,” Danielle said. “We took advantage of the Beginning Farmer Program through the USDA Farm Service Agency and worked with Farmers & Merchants Union Bank in Columbus to finance the rest of the business. That really helped to get us started.”
The family, which includes 2-year-old son JP, closed on the property May 24 and opened for business June 14.
The Zastrows ran the strawberry business for 20 years after taking over the farm from the Steinbach family, who had also owned it for 20 years. Tim said he is grateful that the Zastrows were willing mentors who readily shared their knowledge of strawberry farming, business and employee management and customer service.
Strawberries are a perennial crop with a life span of about three to four years.
“The fields that we’re picking in this year were all planted by Wayne and Cindy,” Danielle said. “They helped us plant and showed us the process of how to plant a field of four acres of berries for next year, which is a four-person job and took us about four days to do because it’s very labor-intensive. The first year you plant, you don’t get a crop; the plants will bear fruit but you don’t want to eat it because it’s not a fruit of quality. So we have been out by hand pruning four acres of strawberries.”
Mayberry Farms is a “Ready-Pick” and a “U-Pick” farm which grows two varieties of strawberries, Cabot and Jewel. Danielle said many of the customers this season have expressed how happy they are that the strawberry farm is continuing.
“We are doing this for the community and are excited to sell a product they will take home to their families. It’s really nice to see generations of families picking berries here together and enjoying each other,” Danielle said.
Tim said, “The season has not been without its challenges. Strawberries need about 1 inch of water a week and we have had almost triple that amount.”
However, Danielle said, “Thankfully we were blessed with a very good yield with lots of quality and good-tasting berries on the plants.”
The Clarks will have “U-Pick” raspberries available in late July and also are raising sweet corn they plan to sell in August and September.
Tim and Danielle are proud to be first-generation strawberry growers and want their children to learn firsthand the value of hard work and where their food comes from by living on a farm.
Tim said the most important crop this year will come at the end of September when they expect their second child to arrive.