About James R. Sease Farm, the Keislers and Strawberry Production
At the age of 14, Mike Keisler began farming with James R. Sease. Eventually,
Mike and his wife Deek bought the farm keeping the Sease name. The farm has always
been a peach business with nearly 500 acres of peaches at one time. Now, the
Sease Farm produces a variety of vegetables and fruit – mustard, kale, yellow
squash, and, of course, the first crop of spring, strawberries.
Mike and Deek Keisler started with 1 acre of strawberries nineteen years
ago. They now have eleven acres of strawberries with about 165,000 plants
producing about one-quarter million pounds of fruit in a seven-week period.
Since it’s a short season, strawberry lovers need to get out to the farm early.
In South Carolina, there are about 70 growers producing strawberries on
600 acres valued in excess of $11 million, according to Powell Smith of Clemson
Extension Service. The fruit brings early income especially to small farmers allowing
them to get off the ground without getting operating loans.
The U.S. is the biggest grower and exporter of strawberries in the world.
In fact, across the nation, the strawberry crop is the second most popular
fruit next to apples. Mike says, “That’s just because strawberries taste good.”
People want to eat food that tastes good, but they also want food that is healthy.
Strawberries are convenient in that they come in a small bite-sized package and
they are high in soluble fiber and antioxidents.
Tyler said, “I can actually come out and be a farmer
for a day. Why is that important?” “U-pick/We-pick operations are a great way
to show how the farm and city connect,” said Loni Rikard, Lexington County Farm
City Chair. “The vast majority of people today are so far-removed from agriculture
that it’s really important for them to come directly to the farm, meet farmers
like Mr. Mike, and see how farming is really done,” she said. “We have the
safest, most affordable food supply in the world. Because our food is less
expensive than in most other countries, we have more disposable income to spend
on things other than the necessities.”
“The u-pickers are young people in their 20s to 30s
who bring their children with them,” Mike said. “So, it’s not just for the
strawberries. It’s an outing for the entire family.” He said, “Pick red
strawberries because they won’t continue to ripen after they’re picked. Don’t
pick orange berries. Let those continue to ripen in the field. Pick red
berries. The redder the better!