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June 18, 2014 - Brandon Twp.- Raymond Kramer was on his hands and knees picking strawberries on Tuesday, the day before his 94th birthday.

As the sun beat down, sweat trickled from the Clarkston resident's face, but he was cheery as he plucked the ripe fruit at Middleton Berry Farm, 4790 Oakwood Road.

"I like that this is close to home," said Kramer. "I always pick my strawberries. I've been picking strawberries since they were in Lake Orion."

The "they" he referred to is Bill and Barb Middleton, but after 30 years, the Middletons retired and this spring, the farm was purchased by sisters Stacy and Carrie Janiga.

Kramer, and dozens of other berry lovers of all ages, are grateful the Janigas are continuing the tradition of the "u-pick" farm and showed their support by coming out June 17 on opening day of strawberry season. The access drive and parking has been moved slightly to the west, but little else appears to have changed at the farm. Stacy Janiga noted that the fields were not bedded with straw last fall and there are more weeds due to the lack of herbicide being used, but many patrons see that as an advantage.

"I'm excited about less herbicides and as close to organic as they can be," said Hilary Stockoski, a township resident who picked strawberries on Tuesday with her children, Cali, 19 months, and Camden, 3.

Stacy Janiga said that is consistent with what she is hearing from customers— they'd rather have more weeds than spray, and she and Carrie are planning to do sustainable farming, more natural with low impact.

They expect to have a good three weeks of strawberry season and also will have raspberries in mid to late August.

"We didn't really know what to expect, we've had a lot of phone calls and a lot of people excited we were going to be open, they are thrilled," said Stacy. "We had a great turnout today, we are ecstatic. Thanks to Barb and Bill again, we would not be as far as we are without them... We are really happy with the crop we got, because of the hard winter our expectations were exceeded."

Cindy Sparling, an Ortonville resident, purchased 20 pounds of strawberries on Tuesday, with plans to freeze them and later make smoothies, milkshakes and jelly.

"We're glad they're still here," she said.

Middleton Berry Farm is open from 7:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday. Closed Monday. Sundays are tentative, check the Middleton Berry Farm Facebook page, or go to Details: 248-831-1004.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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