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TAYLORVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Strawberry season at the Big M Berry patch southwest of Taylorville means hundreds of people filling quart containers of strawberries, thanks to the hospitality of Mel Repscher and his family.

“We started back in 1985 with just about 2 acres of strawberries,” Repscher said. “And we’ve increased it a little bit every year, so now, this year we have about 7 acres of strawberries, plus altogether we have about 20 acres in berries, and produce and other vegetables.”

And this is really a family operation.

“Oh, it is, my wife and I, well, Big M, stands for myself and our 4 children’s names all begin with M, and when they were younger, Mom starts with M, too,” Repscher said. “So that’s how we came up with the Big M. And they are part of it, and really they’ll take over at sometime, or probably have taken over some of it already. My son Matt is active in the operation now, and we’ve got several grandchildren that are helping out here this summer and some of them might be interested in it also.”

Mel, when did strawberry season start, anyway?

“This year, it just started Saturday,” Repscher said.

Is that later than normal?

“As an average that is about right,” Repscher said. “The berries we plant are called June berries. And they usually begin bearing June 1st. and we’re pretty close to June 1.”

You’ve had some tough weather so far, but apparently it hasn’t hurt the strawberry patch too much.

What hurt the strawberry plants the worst this spring, was the 3 hot days we had of abnormally hot temperatures beginning of May there, and the plants, the berries and the blooms were just not acclimated to that hot of temperature that early,” Repscher said. “And a lot of the berries and blooms desecrated and dried up for that reason.”

You’ve got quite a few strawberries to serve the population, so, how and when can people come pick?

“Well, we should be open every day now, for the first two weeks of June and possibly longer than that, depending on the weather,” Repscher said.

That’s our harvest heritage report, I’m Stu Ellis with WCIA-3, your local news leader.