Murfreesboro will soon have its own strawberry fields forever – or at least a strawberry patch this spring.
In this undated photo, local farmer Brandon Whitt tends to his strawberry patch, located on Medical Center Parkway in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Whitt is opening the patch to the public later this year. (Photo submitted)
The Rutherford County Planning Commission unanimously approved a rezoning request Monday night that would allow Brandon Whitt to operate a pick-your-own strawberries patch along Medical Center Parkway.
Located behind the new Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce building along Medical Center Parkway, the strawberry patch is on a portion of the 238-acre Williamson family farm. Whitt leases the land and farms it for produce and hay.
“The idea started with the tremendous drought last year, and the changes we needed to make to be more profitable,” Whitt explained of the idea to plant a strawberry patch.
“It’s one thing Mrs. (Mitsu) Williamson always wanted to do was raise strawberries, but her husband said he didn’t want any part of it. I wanted to see that (dream) through and to tell our story of what agriculture is and what it can add to a community.”
The 3-acre patch also provides local residents and visitors a fun activity or family outing, as strawberry picking has long been a Southern pastime.
“It’s something they can get out and do and appreciate agriculture,” he continued.
Currently, there are two nearby strawberry patches – one in Bell Buckle and the other in Lascassas – but this will be the first patch adjacent to Murfreesboro’s city limits.
If Mother Nature cooperates and keeps frosty weather at bay, Whitt said he plans to open his pick-your-own strawberry patch in mid-April. Strawberry season lasts through early-June.
Commissioner Petus Reed pointed to the juxtaposition of the strawberry patch with the sprawling \shopping center.
“We still have a multimillion dollar industry called agriculture,” he said. “To me, it’s real exciting to see this come forward at this time, and I would like to see more of it.”
According to Planning Director Doug Demosi, the rezoning request to change the property from medium density residential to agriculture residential comes as a result of the new comprehensive zoning plan.
He explained how an agriculture zone existed in the pre-1984 zoning resolution but was eliminated in the 1984 zoning resolution, though he doesn’t know why it was removed.
“One of the goal statements in the comprehensive plan is to ‘adopt standards for the identification and protection of historic and cultural resources,’ which I believe agricultural resources falls into,” Demosi said.
“When we were developing the current zoning ordinance, we wanted to create a zone that would allow and encourage agricultural use of the property, as well as agri-tourism and other related activities. So, we developed the agricultural residential zone, which allows those types of activities, as well as limited residential use.”
Demosi added farming activities are still permitted on the residentially zoned properties, but the agricultural zone allows more of the other agriculture-related activities.
“As time goes on, we hope that more people see the benefits of the AR zone and request their property to be zoned agricultural residential,” he said.
Another farmer (who is actually Whitt’s father-in-law) also requested the agriculture zoning for his 409-acre farm, located within the Blackman community.
John L. Batey operates his family’s 200-year-old Batey Farms, which produces hogs, row crops and hay. He currently sells his offerings on site, but plans to construct a new building designated specifically for produce and pork vending. Batey said he also plans to relocate a couple of century-old cabins.
The Planning Commission unanimously approved his rezoning request, as well.
For information about Batey Farms or the pick-your-own strawberry patch, visit www.bateyfarms.com or visit the Batey Farms Facebook page for updates.