Ed. — From the Sunday, May 9, print edition.
BY JANE BLOODWORTH ROWE
VIRGINIA BEACH — Want some fruit or vegetables from Cullipher Farm Market this year? You’ll need to go to the new market location at 772 Princess Anne Road.
Customers who pick apples, gather strawberries or find pumpkins are already familiar with this site, but they might be surprised by a newly opened indoor market. It features seasonal produce as well as the ice cream that some customers have come to expect from a trip to the market.
The Cullipher family, who have expanded their fruit production in recent years, decided to close their market at 1444 Princess Anne Road near Pungo, which had been open for about two decades, according to farmer Mike Cullipher.
They were already growing vegetables and most fruits on this 180-acre site near Creeds, and Cullipher thought that many consumers were already more familiar with this location.
“It became confusing for people,” said Cullipher, who added that many people shopped and picked strawberries at the northern location but had to go further south to pick later season fruits.
“They would come to pick,” Cullipher said, “but then if they wanted to shop for vegetables or get ice cream, they’d have to stop at the other stand.”
He thought that this inconvenienced some, especially those with small children, and he suspected many were just skipping the vegetables and ice cream.
“You know how it is when you have children,” Cullipher said. “Once you get them into the car, you want to just keep going.”
Increased traffic was also causing safety concerns for customers entering and leaving the Pungo site, Cullipher said.
The new market opened on Friday, April 23 with pick-your-own strawberries. By mid-afternoon, the early-ripening Ruby June strawberries were still plentiful despite a good turnout of pickers.
“We were happy with the turnout,” Cullipher said. He and market manager Joseph Cicatko said that the opening weekend went well despite some rain on Saturday afternoon, and customers seemed happy with the new space. Pre-picked berries and early spring vegetables are also available at the market.
While there are no firm plans yet for a grand opening, there will probably be one sometime after Mother’s Day, Cullipher said.
Cullipher wants to create a destination for the pick-your-own fruit market that will attract customers all season. Strawberries, blueberries and peaches are available during the spring and summer season, and apples begin to ripen in August, while pumpkins are available in the fall.
This year, Cullipher also hopes that he’ll have muscadine grapes ripe for the picking. He also plans to begin making and selling apple cider and have hot cider available for the pumpkin and apple pickers.
“Customers can pick fruit, shop for produce, and have ice cream here,” Cicatko said. “We want this to be an all-inclusive experience. And we can open the two large garage doors to give it the feel of an open-air market or close them and create an indoor market depending on the weather.”
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