ARLINGTON – The strawberry season has officially started in the Stillaguamish Valley.
That’s the juicy crop report from Biringer Farm.
The savory red berries are ripe and available just in time for the grand multi-day Marysville Strawberry Festival this week, and on a smaller scale, Biringer’s own festival at the farm in Arlington June 15-16.
“The Sweet Summer variety arrived early; they are sweet, juicy, very red and people are going to enjoy them,” said Diana Biringer, longtime co-owner of the farm with husband, Mike.
The farm will open to the public to pick their own berries Saturday at 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
“I hope a lot of people come out this weekend, and I think they will because U-pick is something they can to together with family,” Biringer said.
She added that the first early crop usually creates a buzz among parents eager to get out to the fields, but the reality is they don’t tend to make the trip until school gets out. “It happens every year.”
The Biringers have owned and operated the 60-acre farm at 59th Avenue NE and Highway 530 for a dozen years, but it wasn’t until last month that they moved from their original farm property in south Marysville where they lived since 1985 to a new home next to Fosters Farm Produce, and within eyesight of their own farm across the highway.
The Port of Everett bought the Biringers’ 350 acres of land on Spencer Island in the mid-1990s for an estuary, with plans to flood the farmland kept usable by dikes and support endangered Chinook salmon.
Biringer was an institution in Marysville, as a supplier of strawberries and jobs for a community that celebrates the berries each year during the Strawberry Festival. They also ran their Pig Out on the Farm as a featured festival attraction with multiple fun activities and other entertainment farming such as their Boo Barn, with scarecrows, cornstalks and light scary fare that drew busloads of kids around Halloween.
Biringer fondly recalled their time there, and it was tough to move on.
“The view was incredible,” she said. “All the mountains, every day looking out the window and seeing the Olympics, Mount Pilchuck, Mount Baker and sometimes Rainier through the trees. I’m just thankful for the years we had and the things we got to do out there.”
Their current 60 acres in Arlington are a long way from the days when 2,000 acres of strawberries left their legacy on Marysville, with farms owned by the Biringers, Dues, Leifers, Champers and others, at a time when the county’s total inventory for strawberries was 2,200 acres.
The Biringers are still unpacking boxes at the new house, but they’re easing into the Stilly Valley way of life now, not only as farmers, but residents.
“I thought this house would swallow us up,” she said. “It’s a mile to go from here to the back bedroom. It’s a little adjustment, but we like it, and it’s cozy.”
Even with their hands full moving in, they are also preparing for the annual Biringer Farm Strawberry Festival “Fun in Farmland” set for 11 a.m.-3 p.m. It runs the same time as parade weekend in Marysville, where Biringer Farm will enter again with its tractor pulling a Jolly Trolley (riders are still needed).
Compared to the massive Marysville festival, Biringer described their own fest as with a more down-on-the-farm feel.
“We just want to keep it down to earth,” she said. “When people come to the farm, they want it to be clean, but they also want it to be farm-y.”
The event features rides on four of the farm’s “Jolly Trolleys” out to the acres of berries, a giant strawberry ride, strawberry and castle maze inflatables, pennies in the hay, Arlington Airfare Kiddie Planes, kids slides and tunnels, face painting and pig bowling.
“For pig bowling, we set up pink-painted bowling pins, set up hay bales to the sides, and kids bowl the ball,” Biringer said about the sport that got its start at Pig Out in Marysville.
Professional kite flyers from Everett will be returning for demonstrations, the Jam Lady from the WSU Cooperative Extension will share her expertise, and kids can also meet a couple alpacas up close.
Admission and parking are free. Only service dogs are allowed.
Biringer said they still enjoy the labor too much to retire, and sharing what they do with people at the festival helps make it all worthwhile.
“I just can’t let go of it because I love to see the children and the families,” she said. “Families are so stretched these days, so it’s wonderful to see them come and do simple things. Some kids just want to jump on an old tractor, and they’ll stand in a line for pictures.”
Biringer said the farm desperately needs more berry pickers and is taking applications.
In the past, they used to hire 100 workers who harvested the berries by hand and machine to work until the end of July. Last year, they had 15 pickers, Biringer said, “And we wouldn’t have had a crop without them because they stayed long hours and worked.”
The days are long gone when Marysville schools let some students out of class in May to handle harvests that often came earlier because of the city’s largely sandier soil and climate conditinos.
Biringer Farm has two stands selling berries in the county, one on State Avenue in Marysville near Burger Mill, and the other on 196th Street in Lynnwood. Daughter Melody Biringer also has a strawberry stand at Seattle Center near the Space Needle.
Biringer charges $3 a pound for U-pick visitors, with pre-picked six-box strawberry flats $17.50 at the farm, or $18 at Berry Barn stands, and pint boxes for $5 each. The farm also sells gourmet packaged shortcake, local honey and other treats.