Tri-Cities Original: Scott’s Farm harvesting strawberries, continuing a half-century family tradition

Tri-Cities Original

UNICOI, Tenn. (WJHL) — Strawberry lovers — the wait is over.

It’s harvest time in Northeast Tennessee and the strawberry stands are now open selling from Scott’s Farms in Unicoi County.

“Daddy always said that everybody goes through the winter and your strawberries are the first fresh fruit or vegetable of the year,” said Steve Scott, co-owner of the business started by his parents Wayne and Mary Lou Scott. “They do get excited about them.”

“They” are the loyal fans who stake out the Scott’s Farms produce stands that appear every spring in parking lots around the region. Cartons packed with red, sweet berries often are sold out in just a few hours.

“They start out like gangbusters,” Scott said. “You can’t keep them in the stands.”

Photo: Steve and Mary Lou Scott

For Steve Scott, it’s another year of continuing the family business started by his parents back in 1958. While Wayne Scott taught school, Mary Lou Scott raised the family and tended the crop in Unicoi County.

“I’ve seen him deliver strawberries to Charlotte, North Carolina, sleep two hours, and then get up and go to school,” he said. “They worked hard at it, and that’s why we’re standing here.”

And Scott says his dad was stubborn.

“The worst thing you could do to my father was to tell him you can’t do something. It was like, ‘Ok – here we go.'”

Prime example: In the early years of growing, local farmers planted berries in flat rows surrounded by straw. Wayne Scott heard about a different method in which plants crew on mounds of dirt covered with plastic.

Others said said wouldn’t work here, and for Wayne Scott it was a challenge he gladly accepted.

“In no time, we were picking more strawberries off of 50 acres of plastic than 125 acres of the old matted row system,” Wayne’s son remembers.

Business boomed until the 1970’s when a gasoline shortage hit the country. Soon, fewer cars were traveling to Unicoi County to buy produce. “Daddy could tell there was a drop in sales. He said, ‘Well if they won’t come here we’ll take it to them.'”

So Wayne Scott opened his first farm stand in a parking lot closer to town.

It would be the first of many, an example “farm to table” before that was a thing.

But perhaps the most lasting mark of brilliance by the teacher and farmer from Unicoi County was his understanding of a foundational truth in business.

“Daddy always wanted to put the best that we could out there,” Steve Scott said. “He always said, ‘You can sell people junk once but you can’t sell it to them twice.’ We try to uphold that and try to stay true to it.”

You can locate a Scott’s Farms strawberry stand and check to see when berries are in stock HERE.

And you can visit the Scott’s Farm Market where strawberries along with homemade ice cream are for sale on Highway 107 in Unicoi.

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Born and raised in the Tri-Cities, Josh Smith has been a member of the WJHL team since 1999. His family roots go deep in the region, and he’s traveled through almost every part of it covering news on local TV since 1995. When he’s not on the job, he’s with his wife, two sons, and daughter.   “They’re the best part of me,” he said.   You may run into them biking on the Tweetsie Trail, hiking around Bays Mountain Lake, or browsing the shelves at the local public libraries.

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