The best strawberries? Those from Plant City, just a little north of the Farmhouse Market at Phillippi Estate Park. So I start thinking, naturally, of history. (And strawberry shortcake but let’s stay on topic here…)
Question: Why do they call it Plant City?
A: Because Itchepackesassa was too hard to pronounce and Cork? Really?
B: Because it’s an agricultural powerhouse.
C: Because Henry Plant built his railroad through there.
Answer? All of the above. Seriously, though, it was named after the railroad magnate who made the town’s fortune: now farmers could pack the strawberries in ice and ship them North to those fools living in snow and slush.
So then I start pondering “strawberry schools.”
Since many families could not afford to hire extra people to harvest the strawberries, children would help. Instead of having a summer vacation, children went to school during the summer and took the winter months off to help their parents with the harvest. The plants would start bearing fruit towards the end of December and continue through the end of March, so the school year was set at April to December. The schools with such a schedule (scheduling was a local, not a state, matter) were known as “strawberry schools.” Read more.
A number of counties in Central and South Florida mandated this to accommodate the small family farm harvest schedules for various winter fruits and vegetables. Strawberries were the main Florida crop requiring this arrangement. Rearranging the school year was no new invention; the very idea of summer vacation was originally devised to allow farm children to help their families during the busy summer months.
Plenty of other states had similar systems to allow schoolchildren to help out at harvest time. There have at various times been “potato schools” in Connecticut, “apple schools” in New York, “tomato schools” in Ohio, and so on. Read more. And more.
Then I got this yen for reading a sweet historical novel.
It’s technically a children’s book, but we all should retain our childlike sense of wonder, right? Read Strawberry Girl online. It’s also available in hard copy in our Sarasota County libraries.
So has all of this got you yearning to go to the Strawberry Festival in March?
The Strawberry Festival’s 2022 dates are March 3-13. Here’s some history of the Festival, and here’s where you can buy tickets to the music acts, including Oak Ridge Boys, Boys II Men, Chicks with Hits, Beach Boys (are we seeing a gender theme here or is it just me?)