PILOT POINT — Crouching down and picking the ripest, reddest strawberries from nearly 50,000 plants, Kylie and Chris Demases realized last year they never actually picked strawberries for themselves at their farm.
The couple opened Pecan Creek Strawberry Farm in the spring of 2018 with almost 10,000 strawberry plants that Chris carefully planted by hand the previous October. When they opened in early April, they were shocked by the demand and wanted to save the berries for their customers instead of indulging themselves.
“It was overwhelming,” the pair said in unison about their fist year in business.
“We learned really quickly we didn’t have enough strawberries,” Kylie said.
They decided to add almost 40,000 new plants in October to harvest this spring, and hosted opening day at the farm Saturday, April 13. The farm opens at 9 a.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays and, with a $3 bucket, attendees can pick as many strawberries as they want for $5 per pound.
The business resonates with people because strawberries can be eaten raw, prepared or canned. Older people love to recreate their childhood memories, while the younger generations crave new, hands-on activities. Plus, it gets addictive.
“It’s really hard to control yourself,” Kylie said. “You keep seeing things and are like ‘Oh, there’s another one! And another one!’ It’s like Easter eggs and you can’t make yourself stop.”
After the rush last season, Chris said, he was ready to get up to the 50,000-plant mark, with Kylie being more cautious. Now that the social media buzz has started about the farm again, they both think they’ll need to expand again after the season.
“It feels like a lot of plants when you’re putting them all out by hand,” Chris said. “But I do think each year we’re going to have to grow. We were just talking about what it would be like if we doubled again for next year.”
The farm follows suit after another Pilot Point business, the Texas Tulips farm just 2 miles away. The tulip attraction draws buses of people to see nearly 100 different varietals of the flower. From mid-February until early April, people pay $2.50 a stem to build their own tulip bouquets.
With pick-your-own attractions growing in popularity, Denise Morris, executive director of economic development for Pilot Point, said it’s exciting to see farmland used for new business.
“I think there’s definitely more interest in people wanting to explore opportunities for their land, so it’s neat to see strawberries and tulips that are really different uses but are being successful. It’s exciting,” she said. “Our big goal is to make sure the people who come to visit from out of the area take a pause and come explore the town.”
Pecan Creek Strawberry Farm sits on some of the 100 acres that have been in Kylie Demases’ family for 100 years. It was last used for horticulture in the 1970s, and since then her grandmother has used it to run cattle.
When she and Chris brought the idea to her grandma to use some of the land for strawberries, she loved the idea. The couple thought the idea would work after Chris decided to plant strawberries at his family farm in Boyd. There, they had a farm stand and when they declared one day strawberry day, people lined the county road trying to buy some.
“People started asking if they could pick them, and we had a light bulb — you want to pay to pick our product?” Kylie said. “We realized people wanted to get out there and pick stuff, so we thought we were really on to something.”
In the first season of the farm last year, Kylie’s grandmother, Willene Crutsinger, was thrilled to see people on her family’s land and helped run the checkout counter on farm days — Wednesdays and Saturdays.
“She was a big part of us moving here and she helped facilitate this,” Kylie said. “She doesn’t miss a strawberry day. At the close of last year, she was so sad and was like, ‘What am I going to do on Wednesdays and Saturdays now?”
Having new, out-of-town traffic in Pilot Point is continuing to help other businesses in the area grow.
“People drive from ways out to go to the tulip farm, and we want them to stay in the area,” Morris said of day trippers. “It’s great, and our restaurants and merchants are ready for the influx.”
Kylie Demases said she hopes the strawberry farm can evolve to help fuel other parts of town like the tulip farm has.
“It’s really getting cool — with us, the tulips, Western Son Distillery and downtown reviving,” she said. “I think Pilot Point is on the up and up, and we want to contribute to that.”