Patterson Farm Market & Tours
First full disclosure: My children have been to Patterson Farms, my grandchildren have been to Patterson Farms, my money has been to Patterson Farms, but I had never stepped foot on the property until late April. I had to question myself about why I had waited so long. The convenience of their roadside satellite locations selling their beautiful, bursting with flavor strawberries have long been my friend. However, there is just something fun about going to the actual farm and taking in all Patterson Farm Market & Tours has to offer. I met up with Michelle Patterson, Director of Fun, early one morning there on the farm and I was immediately impressed with the crowd already there.
Michelle gave me a lot of information right off the bat about the farm, and seeing that I was a first-time visitor, she gave me the grand tour.
When you arrive at the farm, you see the Market’s new interchangeable barn quilt that will greet each season from strawberries to tomatoes to pumpkins. You are also greeted by a beautiful variety of plants and flowers at the entrance of the Market. I love plants, so naturally I was intrigued by the variety and by how well taken care of the plants were! I was told they mostly come from locals in the community that have greenhouses.
Inside the Market, not only will you find fresh-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables, but also chicken and duck eggs and fresh milk from Homestead Creamery. In the spring season, you can purchase freshly picked strawberries. Be on the lookout for tomatoes this summer and pumpkins in the fall. They are a one-stop shop for all your canning needs in addition to selling their many jams, jellies, preserves, and sauces. If you are looking for a real treat, they serve hand scooped ice cream!
After play time on the playground or a hay ride, visitors can grab a bite to eat at the Snack Silo or enjoy a picnic by the picnic tables. I would say it is a great place to go and make memories with the family!
As Michelle and I exited the market and continued to the barnyard, I began to hear the squeals and laughter of children on a field trip. The large red barn proudly displays the original barn quilt from West Rowan Farm, Home, and Garden. There is also a red brick on the outside of the barn that is hand dated January 19, 1947 to let you know just how old the structure is.
The barnyard is full of baby animals which the children were obviously enjoying. I may be guilty of petting a few furry heads myself! Patterson Farm Market & Tours is currently educating young children on how strawberries grow through an interactive puppet show. If you are lucky enough, you might even get picked from the audience to dress up like a strawberry yourself!
When we exited the animal feeding area located in the barn, we walked close to the fields where visitors were busy picking strawberries. Again, I was amazed at how many people were already there picking and enjoying the farm.
A Wall of Family History
The walls inside the red barn show the family history of Patterson Farm along with family pictures. Did you know that Patterson Farm is more than 100 years old? The farm is over 1,100 acres and originally it was the Graham Dairy Farm. Out of the 1,100 acres, they currently have 500 acres in production. Michelle’s husband, Doug, and his brother Randall Patterson run the farm along with the help of their families and employees. They employ over 300 people in Rowan County. They also have 100 seasonal employees that are made up primarily of retirees and high school kids. The Patterson families also have children in college at NC State University that will help continue to grow this family business after they graduate.
Strawberries have been picked there since the 1970s and currently they occupy 55 acres on the farm. The berries are all produced in their nursery. They start from tips which turn into plugs that are planted during the months of September and October.
Much More Than Strawberries
Though I love the red sweet fruit, Patterson Farm doesn’t just produce strawberries. Tomatoes will be hitting the picking season over the summer with over 2 million tomato plants on 200 acres of land. Look for these juicy treats in late June. Patterson tomatoes are usually available until the first frost of fall. On the subject of tomatoes, Our State Magazine featured an article about the Woodleaf Tomato Festival. This isn’t a festival you want to miss so check it out!
Their nearby repacking business sends out fresh produce to grocery stores such as Food Lion, Walmart, Lowes Food, and Harris Teeter. Over 10,000,000 pounds of tomatoes get shipped out! That is a lot of tomatoes! I’m ready for a tomato sandwich right now as I write this. Come on tomato season!
You can also find a variety of peppers and cucumbers which occupy over 200 acres of land. Look for pumpkins in the Fall and poinsettias from their greenhouse available in November and December just in time for the holiday season.
Great Knowledge, Great Power – Educational School Tours
Remember I mentioned how intrigued I was by the number of visitors they had on the farm that day? Michelle told me that they have over 27,000 field trips and serve over 70,000 visitors a year!
Patterson Farm offers various Educational School Tours based on the season. In the spring, the Strawberry Patch Tour is one of the most popular. This tour teaches children how they grow strawberries and the best way to pick them. The Geocaching Adventure is a high-tech treasure hunt which challenges participants to solve riddles, follow compass directions, and search for clues. Then obviously in the fall, the Pumpkin Patch Tours are popular among the kids, but teachers love it too because it follows the Core Curriculum. Students learn about the life cycle of pumpkins and even get to take home a pumpkin! In addition to school groups, Patterson hosts home school and special needs groups. To learn more about the educational tour offerings, check out their website here.
Field trips don’t attract just kids. Patterson Farm offers Senior Group Tours for those wanting to enjoy a day outdoors, learn about farming history, and have some fun on the farm! For more information on senior outings, visit their website here.
Growing Healthy Traditions
Families and friends have made visiting Patterson Farms an annual tradition. From feeding farm animals, to Pawpaw Carl’s Playground, to the corn maize in the Fall, Patterson Farm has something for everyone!
I recently had a chance to chat with Dr. Gayle Yatawara, a local OB-GYN, and told her I was writing a blog about Patterson Farm. She has been going with her two daughters for over 18 years! “The Fall is my favorite time of the year to go,” she said. I asked her what she enjoyed the most and she said, “I love making the scarecrows. It’s a family tradition!” They craft their own scarecrow for their front porch by choosing pants and a flannel shirt provided by Patterson. Yatawara names her scarecrow Scarlett and displays “her” proudly.
A Berry Sweet Love Story
As Michelle and I were heading back from the tour, I noticed a beautiful house on the property and I asked her who lived there. She replied her and Doug reside there on the property. I asked her how they met and funny enough it was in a strawberry patch. I told her it was a true love story and she said, “Yes, you might say ‘strawberry fields forever’.”
Patterson Farm Market and Tours is located at 10390 Caldwell Road Mt. Ulla, NC 28125. For more information, you can reach them at 704-636-4005 or by visiting their website here.
P.S. Millions of honeybees are dying off, leaving our environment and food supply at risk. Honeybees are responsible for pollinating crops such as almonds, strawberries (oh no!), blackberries, alfalfa (which is used to feed dairy cows), apples… You’re catching my drift, right? Rowan County is actually taking a stand to save the honeybees. Read [How Rowan County Locals are Changing the Plight of the Honeybee] to see how you can become informed and get involved.