SAN ANTONIO – Poteet has a different growing season than California strawberries and SoTex Farms has different soil, which is why the owners say their strawberries taste sweeter.
“I love strawberries, even though I’m mildly allergic to them,” Pat West Jr., owner of SoTex Farms said.
West and Joanna Garcia of SoTex Farms in Poteet say they put a lot of love and care into planting their strawberries.
“I’ll eat them until I get a rash, but growing up in Poteet, there’s a lot of pride for it,” West said. “My grandfather was actually one of the people who started the Strawberry Festival back in 1948 as a way to bring soldiers back from World War II, to have pride in their town. And now I’m here carrying on the legacy.”
The festival is a tradition that still goes on today, attracting over 100,000 people. It’s also the economic pulse for the small town.
“It’s really an economic boom for this, for the county and the city,” Darrell Eichman, president of the Poteet Rotary Club said. “During the Strawberry festival, we have a lot of civic organizations that have booths in the strawberry festival grounds, churches, nonprofits, all kinds of groups like that. And that is their main fundraiser for the year.”
The money also goes back to the strawberry growers in Poteet that compete and then auction off their produce.
“A lot of the money goes back to the growers, those who are the grand champions and all the different places,” Eichman said. “And we also keep some of the money for scholarships for the local students and to support the FFA.”
Planting looks a little different in Poteet compared to where most of the country’s strawberries come from in Northern California.
“We get a little bit more sun earlier than everybody else,” West said. “So we actually plant in October, sometimes September, all the way through November and our berries come in about mid-February and stay through about the first week of June.”
“We cut off a couple of inches of this root, we poke holes, put them in the ground and we let them grow,” Garcia said. “Once they’re in the ground, we’re pretty much hands off until the harvest season comes.”
SoTex Farms they’ve made over 13,000 feet of rows and it takes about two weeks of 30 to 40 people helping them plant 33,000 strawberries.
They have had a lot of success at the festival since 2018.
“We got reserve grand champion two years ago in our in our fourth year of growing,” West said. “We’ve gotten first place miscellaneous two years in a row now.”
So what’s their secret?
“She talks to all the plants, but I really do think it’s because we grow on clay,” West said. “The clay is, you know, it has a lot more natural nutrients in it. I think our berries just taste sweeter because of it.”
The Poteet Strawberry Festival in 2024 will take place on April 12 to April 14.
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