On Our Way to Riches In The Strawberry Market


President, White County Historical Society, 1974-75

(This story was taken from the newly released publication White County Wisdom - 90 Years of Short Stories. The author’s widow, Peggy Wisdom, has donated proceeds from its sale to the White County Historical Society. White County Wisdom is available for $10 postage paid by writing WCHS, P.O. Box 537, Searcy, AR 72145.)

About this time (1919), the strawberry business began to thrive in White County. The market was good and the growers began to make money and the farmers began to clear more land and set large acreage. I thought this was my chance to get rich with the rest of the growers, so I began to look for a small farm that I could buy. I soon found the perfect place: 40 acres with a good house and barn and 4 acres of berries already growing. It was in the Lebanon community right where we wanted to be. I bought it for $4,000, paying $1,600 … down on it and making a note for the balance. After we got settled down in our new home I bought a team of mules and a wagon and some farming tools, getting ready for a big year ahead. When spring came I set three or four acres of strawberries, planted five acres of cotton and a few acres of corn. When berry season came on we had a very good crop and the prices were good. Everyone made money. We were well on our way to being rich. Early in the next spring I plowed the cotton under so I could get ground ready to set berry plants. I set enough plants to make 20 acres in all. No more cotton.

By the time we got all the berry plants set it was almost time to start picking. We had a very good crop that spring and the price was very good. Everyone was making money. When the picking was over I began to hire help to work the berries. It takes lots of help and money to work 20 acres of berries. I didn’t pay anything on my land note that spring, just the interest. I was going to pay it all next spring. I built some camp houses and one four-room house that fall to help house berry pickers the following spring. When growing season was over that fall I had 20 acres of strawberries as fine as you could find. I worked in the timber some that winter, making ties, but when spring began to show I began to prepare for pickers. I had to get ready for about 100 pickers. We had bought some army tents to help our and when the time came we hired a cook. We intended to board about 20 people. I bought 5,000 berry crates and stored them in the barn to be ready when we needed them. Just before time to start picking, Mr. Tom Leggett from Bald Knob, the man that I owed on the farm, came down to see my berries. After we looked them over he told me he would give me my note (which was about $2,500) and $3,000 in cash for my berries. I just laughed. About the time the berries began to ripen it began to rain. It rained every day and night for several days. We picked a few crates between the showers and shipped them. They brought a very good price but the berries had begun to rot in the field, green ones and all. The next picking we got about 75 crates. Well, that was just about the end of everything. ?