This year Johnson Farm Produce is celebrating its 10th year hosting the Strawberry Madness Festival.
Jennifer Swets, has known the Johnson family for years and has attended the strawberry festival with her family for the last seven years.
"I remember when Johnson's Farm had a dirt floor and old registers," said Swets of Itasca, IL, laughing. "There weren't prices on anything and if Grandma Johnson was sick that day we didn't know how much the petunias were. To see the farm 20 years later – it’s a nice balance. Jennifer went to college and learned how to improve things for the farm. All of those modern technologies - Facebook, text messages, etc. help the farm work better."
Johnson Farm Produce is a 4th generation farm and is run by siblings Rod and Jennifer Johnson. They farm over 300 acres of produce and have two locations - Valparaiso and Hobart.
The Strawberry Madness Festival is on June 15 and 16th and held at 8960 East Ridge Road, Hobart.
"People don't freeze and can like they used to. In the 80's we would plant upwards of 80 acres of strawberries; currently we are raising around 25 acres," said Jennifer Johnson, general manager. "We are trying to promote getting back to basics and buying food locally."
And the festival’s back-to-basics activities exemplify this. For example, attendees can partake in a pie-eating contest or compete in a strawberry spoon race.
“It doesn’t involve video games, and you’re working together as a team. It’s cheap, it’s fun and you’re seeing your family in the end too,” said Swets. “We usually leave with about 12 buckets of strawberries.”
The festival will also have a variety of cooking demonstrations such as jam-making.
"Grandma Johnson used to teach the jam-making classes when we first started the festival," said Jennifer. "She taught classes up until the year she passed away."
The farm has a family friend that now teaches the class to honor the jam-making tradition.
Keeping up with modern day trends in the retail aspect is necessary but when it comes to farming, Rod sees it differently.
“We do it the old fashioned way. We don't grow any genetically modified crops. We don't believe in that. We don’t have enough information that genetically modified crops are as nutritious. We take the health of our customers real serious and we go for taste, " said
Rod. "We pick sweet corn twice a day so the oldest the corn on your table that you bought from us is four to five hours old.”
To help celebrate the festival's 10th year, Anderson Winery of Valparaiso will be working at the festival.
"They will be serving samples and selling glasses and bottles of wine. The bakery is not going to be doing food pairings with the wine this time as they have too much going on that weekend already with the strawberry doughnuts, pies, pancakes, etc." said Jennifer.
Johnson Farm Produce will be hosting its first blueberry festival on July 13. Visit www.johnsonsfarmproduce.com to find out details.