The children walked in a perfect row, following a teacher, and interspersed with teachers and with a teacher at the end in case any of the youngsters happened to wander off. There was no worry about that, however. The kids were walking from Wimauma Elementary School to the Strawberry Market to pick strawberries and to have a fresh strawberry milkshake and a cookie. No one was going to wander off from that.
As if in confirmation, as the dozens of children gathered around Strawberry Market manager Zinaida Silva last Friday, she asked them if they’d like a milkshake and there was an immediate reply: Dozens of little voices screaming “YES!” in perfect unison.
“They’re not ready yet!” a little voice shouted out after hearing about the green berries.
When Silva finished and told the children to listen to their teachers and to have fun, they again shouted out in unison: “THANK YOU!” with a sincerity and enthusiasm that only children seem to possess.
They set out down the perfectly manicured rows of strawberries, some children carrying bags, most carrying small, brightly colored buckets. And with intensity they sought out their own strawberries. Most interesting was that the children leading in each row left good berries for those children following behind them.
Strawberry Market owner Brad Prevatt said that he does this each year because the kids enjoy it and he wants to do something nice for them. Indeed he did.
The children took seriously the business of collecting strawberries, but more than that, they had fun being outdoors on a school day. And even the field was no ordinary field — it was lined on three sides by red and white flowers; the rows were wide and not too long. Most of the children walked back down the row to collect more.
The children filled up a cart one of the teachers brought along; in all, Prevatt estimates that they picked 35 to 40 quarts of strawberries.
And then the cookies and fresh strawberry milkshakes came out, creating a line and some smiles from the Strawberry Market’s customers.
“A former teacher of mine told me that he thought that at least once a year every child in Hillsborough County Schools should go out into the fields to see where their food comes from,” Prevatt said.
Agriculture was once Hillsborough County’s greatest resource — although rapid growth is diminishing it, farming remains an important asset today for the county.
Those days are gone now, but these children knew one thing for certain: Really nice strawberries come from a beautiful field in front of the Strawberry Market. And the delicious milkshakes and cookies come from inside.
The Strawberry Market is located at 5570 S.R. 674 in Wimauma. The bakery and cafe, offering a variety of home-baked goods, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.