UACES Facebook Bald Knob restaurant shortcakes herald start of strawberry season
skip to main content

Bald Knob restaurant shortcakes herald start of strawberry season

“Don’t wait too late,” Horton said. “Get them while they’re available.”

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture

April 11, 2023

Fast facts

  • Farmer’s advice to berry-seeking customers: “don’t wait too late.”
  • Farm stand strawberries flying off the shelves

(800 words)

(Newsrooms: with art of strawberries on the farm )

BALD KNOB, Ark.  — When shortcake is back on the menu at the Farmhouse Café, it’s a sure sign that strawberry season in Arkansas has begun.

Kenneth Horton, of Horton’s Produce in Bald Knob, said his restaurant first offered strawberry shortcakes on March 30 this year, each one lavished with berries from his farm.

4-4-2023-Bowl of Berries-IMG_7086
BOWL O' BERRIES — Late March and early April mark the start of strawberry season in Arkansas. Taken at Salt Box Farm in Benton Arkansas. Taken April 4, 2023. (Image courtesy Shannon Caldwell)

“We do a strawberry shortcake, which we have with cake or crust, with ice cream. With whipped cream, with nuts — however you want it dressed,” he said. “On the lunch specials, we give a small piece of cake — a small sample of the shortcake — they can buy a larger shortcake if you want.”

And the shortcake is moving. Horton said customers eat through some 16 quarts of strawberries a day.

“Don’t wait”

The demand for fresh berries is very high right now, Horton said.

“People are after the strawberries,” he said. “They’re big and delicious.

“We picked 63 flats this morning,” Horton said. Each flat contains 12 pints of berries. By noon, he said, “we sold half of what we picked today.”

For Horton, the strawberry season “will run through the month of May. By the second week, after Mother’s Day, it’ll kind of fade out on us.”

Horton had some advice for berry seekers.

“Don’t wait too late,” he said. “Get them while they’re available.”

Strawberry shortcake is a big seller at another Bald Knob eatery, the Bulldog Restaurant. Suzie Story, who works the front desk, said customers “keep us so busy when shortcake season comes around. A lot times, we don’t even get to sit down.”

On the first day the Bulldog offered its shortcake, the staff went through 33 gallon jugs filled with berries. “On the second, we went through 31,” Story said.

Weathering cold, rain, winds

Though Horton’s and some other farms were able to start picking at the end of March, not every farm was ready. March was plagued by cold spells and a lot of rain.

“We still have a lot of damaged berries from last freeze and frost, plus rain and wind were causing some issues,” said Matthew Davis, Jackson County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “I’d say we are about one week out with current forecast.”

Davis said he expected affected growers to be helped by sunshine to “have a good first pick.”

Kyle Sanders, Lonoke County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said “all the major producers have a lot of business this week.

“If you visit Lonoke County, you will find many people purchasing Lonoke County-grown strawberries,” he said.

White County Extension Agent Sherri Sanders said she berries she’s sampled were “delicious and beautiful as well” and noted that another nearby farm “had a line of cars waiting to buy theirs!”  

History of strawberry production

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, strawberry production in Arkansas dates back to the years following the Civil War, with growers in White County finding the soil just right for strawberries. Growers organized a strawberry association in the 1910s and by 1951, Bald Knob growers sold $3.5 million in strawberries. Strawberries were so big the University of Arkansas established a Strawberry Substation at Bald Knob.

The strawberry fever extended to other counties as well. In 1938, Searcy County Extension Agent C.W. Bedell organized the Flintrock Strawberry Growers Association. By 1956, the association had 457 growers with strawberries on 1,800 acres.

Eventually, problems with plant diseases and rising competition from California and Florida and overseas caused a decline in the number of acres. Currently, no official acreage or other production figures on berries are kept for Arkansas.

However, Amanda McWhirt, extension horticulture production specialist for the Division of Agriculture, estimates there are 200 to 300 acres of strawberries being grown in Arkansas.

"There was a big increase in acre planted during COVID because people become more interested in outdoor activities and getting in touch with local food," she said. 

While the Strawberry Substation is no more, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture continues to support strawberry growers with research in both production and varieties for Arkansas growers.

The heritage of White County’s strawberries is still celebrated through Strawberry Jam, a family-friendly noon- ‘til-midnight concert held at Grayson Farms Amphitheater. The 2023 concert — its 43rd year — is set for May 6 and features nine acts, including the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.

Read more about the history of White County strawberry production from Sherri Sanders.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. The Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

# # #

Media contact: Mary Hightower,