Florida Strawberry Festival helps educate consumersDuring the annual Florida Strawberry Festival, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association helped educate consumers about where their strawberries are grown and awarded grower-shippers for producing the best flats of berries.

Every year, leaders of the Dover-based association interact with festival visitors and children through a 10,000 square foot display adjacent to a small field of live strawberry plants loaded with ripe red fruit and white blossoms.

During the Feb. 27-March 9 festival, growers and handlers enter their best flats of fruit in the association’s best flat contest.

A group of consumers judges the flats based size, uniformity, color and taste and the winning flats are sold at auction to help fund the association’s scholarship fund.

Florida Strawberry Festival helps educate consumersSince 1983, the association has awarded more than 425 scholarships totaling more than $400,000.

This year, the contest generated $6,018.

The flats garnering the highest bids were from Fancy Farms and E.W. Simmons Farms, both of which are marketed by Wish Farms in Plant City, Fla.

Improving grower relations with suburbanites and consumers is another important association goal and the group created a small shed featuring rocking chairs and antique strawberry equipment on the shed’s front porch so visitors could experience the grower’s life, said Sue Harrell, the association’s director of marketing.

The “Ask the Farmer” project remains a popular and fun festival attraction, she said.