There is nothing quite like the sweet, juicy bite of spring’s first ripe strawberry. Lucky for us, it is now strawberry season in the Sandhills, and there are several options for fresh berries in the area. All of the farms below offer both you-pick and we-pick strawberries.

Riddle Farms Produce

Located at 1822 Chicken Foot Road in Hope Mills, North Carolina, McNeill’s strawberry patch offers a large plot for strawberry picking. I visited this farm two weeks ago and was able to pick a pound of large, delicious strawberries within 15 minutes of arriving.

Hours vary, so check out www.facebook.com/riddlefarmsproduce before heading out. The farm plans to have strawberries for about five more weeks. This week, they also have a limited supply of cabbage for sale.

Gillis Hill Road Produce

Located at 2899 Gillis Hill Road in Fayetteville, Gillis Hill Road Produce is a Family favorite. Many friends and locals have recommended this as a Fayetteville “must.”

In addition to strawberry picking, there is a working farm nearby with homemade ice cream. The produce stand also offers a range of fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. To confirm strawberry availability and hours, visit www.facebook.com/gillishillroadproduce or call 308-9342.

Gross Farms

Gross Farms is conveniently located right off North Carolina Highway 87 at 1606 Pickett Road in Sanford, North Carolina. The farm specializes in strawberries, and is open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is open on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. only during the strawberry season.

The farm’s produce barn also has asparagus during the spring season. Visit www.facebook.com/Gross-Farms-382601835832 or call 919-498-6727 for more information.

Douglas Strawberry Patch

Also located in Sanford, North Carolina at 4162 North Carolina Highway 87 and U.S. Highway 1, this Family-owned and operated business has just started its strawberry season. They are hosting a Kid’s Day on Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to celebrate Earth Day. The cost is $5 per child and activities include strawberry picking, homemade ice cream and story time. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/Douglas-Strawberry-Patch-177792012271994.

C.V. Pilson Farm

A fifth generation farm located at 108 CVP Lane in Cameron, North Carolina and open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. C.V. Pilson offers the following options for purchasing strawberries: one pound clam shells, mini-basket, basket and 10 pound flats. In addition to strawberries, the farm also offers sweet potatoes, which is the business’s main crop. For more information, visit www.cvpilsonfarm.com.

Of course, you need a recipe for all those delicious berries! From strawberry shortcakes to strawberry pies, there are plenty of sweet ways to enjoy the fruits of your labor. While I can eat my weight in any strawberry dessert, my favorite way to savor strawberries (other than straight off the vine) is in a simple salad.

Spinach-Strawberry Salad with Avocado

For salad:

4 strawberries

1 ˝ cups spinach

˝ ripe avocado

Candied walnuts (optional)

For dressing:

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoons sugar

To make:

Combine all dressing ingredients in mason jar or shaker. Dice strawberries and avocado. Sprinkle over spinach and top with nuts, if desired. Toss in dressing and enjoy!