Loving the business of berries

It is strawberry season and I felt like I struck gold when I found Wise Acres farm in Indian Trail! They are an organically-grown strawberry farm with 3 delicious varieties. And they have an amazing recycled tire play area for the kids, as well as the 'Little Free Lending Library', where can you swap out kids books!

Mom and farmer Cathy Linn-Thorstenson, 42, opened Wise Acres this year with her husband on Earth Day (April 22, 2014). They have had a busy season thus far, and still have tons of berries for everyone! Want to know more about the farm? Keep reading!

Q. What made you decide to move to Indian Trail from Chicago?

A. Our family loves the outdoors and we wanted to have some land. We realized that we would have to move way out into the country to be able to afford anything in the Chicago area. Our family was tired of the Chicago winters and was ready for a change. We looked at Nashville, Raleigh and Asheville and when we found the property in Indian Trail we knew we found a new home.

Q. Had you ever lived on a farm or knew much about farming?

A. My husband and I both have relatives who farm and we loved spending time on their farms, however, neither one of us grew up on a farm. After receiving my MBA I worked first in business and then in the non-profit sector before taking time off to raise the girls. I still giggle when I fill out forms that ask for my occupation and I write in "farmer".

Q. Why organic and why strawberries?

A. We are growing strawberries because our family loves strawberries and it is a wonderful crop to attract neighbors to our farm. People will get in their car to come out and pick berries. Turnips and radishes are a tougher sell.

We are committed to being an organic farm because we are very concerned about the effects that agricultural chemicals have on our health. Our family spends so much time outside at the farm and I don't want to expose my children or our customers to the toxins found in the pesticides, fungicides and herbicides commonly used on strawberries.

We also want to be responsible neighbors because we realize that the pesticides that conventional farmers spray on their crops will drift to neighboring properties and also end up in the water supply that we all share

Q. What varieties of strawberries do you carry?

A. Festival, Chandler and Camerosa

Q. Any reason you chose those 3?

A. We picked our varieties for their excellent flavor profile and not for their ability to be packaged and shipped across the country.

Q. Are you certified organic or in the process? What is that process like?

A. We are currently in the process of becoming certified. It takes three years to achieve certification and requires detailed record keeping, surprise inspections and lots of paperwork.

Q. What can you use on the berries to deter pests?

A. We are very limited in the pesticides that we can use. So far we have been able to control pests by releasing beneficial insects into the field such as predatory mites, pirate bugs and ladybeatles. If we have more severe pest problems we can use natural products such as neem oil or insecticidal soaps but these products kill the beneficial insects in the field which breaks the balance of predators and prey and often leads to the need for more pesticides in the future.

Q. Are you going to grow other things besides berries?

A. We will be growing pumpkins in the fall and offering hayrides through the fields and woods on the farm. We are currently testing all kinds of fruits and vegetables and we are going to be growing a wide variety of organic produce in the future. Asparagus, blueberries and blackberries are doing very well in our test gardens and we will be offering these to our customers in the future.

Q. What made you decide to open the farm up to the public?

A. We love to be around people and it is a real treat to meet our customers face to face. It is exciting to see that people share our passion for healthy foods. We want the next generation to learn that good food choices and an active lifestyle are key to long term health and happiness.

Q. Are you going to expand next year?

A. Yes, we will be adding all kinds of organic produce to our offerings, adding activities and increasing the size of our recycled tire playground and farm store.

Q. What do you do during the off-season?

A. There isn't much of an off-season on the farm. There are so many things we want to accomplish that we have many projects ahead. However we can't wait to have some time to play with the kids, take a few hikes and read!

Q. What is your favorite thing to make with strawberries?

A. Honestly most of the strawberries we bring home never make it in anything as the kids devour them immediately. We also make quite a few smoothies in this house. My husband's favorite desert is a simple strawberry shortcake so that is frequently on the menu.

Q. How are your kids enjoying living on a strawberry farm?

A. They love it. Morgan went to "bee school" with me last fall and became a certified NC beekeeper. Bailey has become a chicken expert and she is solely responsible for the breed selection, care and maintenance of the coop. They all love exploring outside with their friends and playing late night games of flashlight tag. I think they could do with a little less berry picking, but so far they have not complained too much.

Q. What has your family learned during this experience?

A. We are constantly reminded that life is so good and that we are blessed beyond words. On a practical side we have learned a lot about weather. I never thought I would care so very much about dew points or frost advisories. It was a long winter, but this beautiful spring has helped us to forget the days of repeatedly covering and uncovering berries.

You can find more information at:

Facebook: wiseacresnc

4701 Hartis Road

Indian Trail, North Carolina 28079