GRANT, Ala. (WHNT) – Margaret and David Cox started Maggie Valley Berry Patch and Gardens more than a decade ago, after retiring from their careers. However, they each grew up with families who farmed, so it’s safe to say it was in their blood all along.
“We just think there’s something special about growing plants, seeing where your food comes from,” Margaret said.
Despite all of their experience, they never expected the costs of items to spike as they have in the past year.
“Nothing close,” David said. “Nothing in the neighborhood of it,” Margaret echoed.
That’s because inflation is impacting essential farming items. For the Berry Patch, in every aspect.
“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in the cost of fertilizer, fuel, plants, virtually everything we use has increased,” Margaret said.
“Our cost has gone up 60% over the last year for fuel,” David said. “Some of our specialty fertilizers have gone up, I think around 40%, a little over 40% and with ammonia nitrate, which is not a specialty fertilizer, it’s gone up 156%.”
They use about a pound of ammonia nitrate every day while the strawberries bloom. Not to mention the cost of fuel to fertigate the more than four acres of plants. Plants they buy new, every single year.
“The cost of the plants went up about $5,000 compared to last year,” David said.
Margaret said their supplier cost increased for the plants but pointed out it’s a top-down passing of cost.
“It’s just kind of a cycle. One increases and then it comes to the next person in line,” Margaret explained.
Margaret said they saw a little bit of that happening last year during the pandemic, but they were able to hold their product prices steady, but for the first time they have to raise the cost of each gallon of berries one dollar for the customer. She said it was a tough decision.
“I see the price increases just like everybody else does and that’s the reason for the reluctance to increase our cost, but at the same time we’re kind of in a situation where we’ll have to,” she said.
The Cox’s said they’re not even making the slight increase for farm-profit reasons. Rather, they said this is to make sure their part-time helpers and pickers get a raise.
“Our workers are seeing the cost of living increase, they’re going to the grocery store, they’re paying bills the same as we are and we feel that we need to do that,” Margaret said. “We value the people that work for us, we value them and we want them to know they’re appreciated and that’s just the way we try to do business, we try to be fair.”
They say their opening date is entirely dependent on when the strawberries are ready, she estimates, mid-April.
To keep up with the Berry Patch and their opening for the season, click on their Facebook page here. Once they do open for the season, their opening hours will be Monday-Saturday at 8:00 a.m. and Sunday afternoons.
You can find the Berry Patch at 401 Babe Wright Road, Grant, AL 35747.