CONTRIBUTED BY DANIELLE MASKERY

Capture essence of strawberries in a pop

We know Steven and Nick Carse’s King of Pops from its bright white pop carts that blossom all over the Atlanta area at the first sign of spring. And some of us know King of Crops, the farm the Carse brothers put into production back in 2016, a 68-acre property in Winston at the southern tip of Douglas County. For the last few years, we’ve been able to buy King of Crops produce at the Brookhaven Farmers Market.

But now all the produce grown at King of Crops is staying in the family, being used to provide produce for a special line of pops.

Neil Ringer is the production director for King of Pops. That means he oversees the production of all the pops and he oversees the production of the King of Crops farm.

“We decided to focus the farm completely on growing ingredients for our pops. It was always our goal to produce a lot of our own ingredients. This year we’re ready with a specific line of pops where all the ingredients will be from the farm. So you’ll find a King of Crops Strawberry Pop, for example. We’ll still have our King of Pops Strawberries and Cream and Strawberry-Basil pops, but those will be using produce from other farmers.”

Even at 68 acres, the farm would be hard pressed to grow all the produce used in the big King of Pops operation.

There are 5,000 strawberry plants in the ground at King of Crops this year. The farm grows two varieties of strawberries, Sweet Charlie and Chandler. Growing two varieties is a form of insurance. “We always grow two in case one doesn’t do well. They are similar taste-wise and they produce similar, high-quality fruit.”

The strawberries are grown on plastic, which means the rows are covered with plastic and the plants are planted in holes punched in that cover. That keeps down the weeds which are a big problem with strawberries. “And we do some temporary fencing for pest control. It’s for the deer, which can be big pests.”

The King of Crops line of pops will include other farm produce like blackberries, ginger and basil. “The blackberries are a perennial plant and we got our first harvest last year. We have an acre and a half of blueberries. We’re adding muscadines and it will be another year at least before we get any harvest from them. We have some of the annual plants like basil, mint, ginger and cucumbers started in our hoops houses and we’ll grow watermelon.”

King of Crops pops are already in production. If you find a pop cart right now, chances are good it’s offering their King of Crops Sweet Potato Pie Pop. It’s a mix of the farm’s sweet potatoes in a dairy-rich mixture with all the spices you’d expect in a sweet potato pie, plus bits of pie crust.

As for the strawberries, Ringer says he looks forward to them every spring. “For me, they’re iconic of Georgia and spring. We don’t get a lot of other fruits in the spring, so when I see strawberries at a farmers market, I’m excited. Like everything a farmer puts passion into, there’s a difference between conventionally grown strawberries and our strawberries.”

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