We’ve got PEAS!

Black-eyed peas, the southern special soul food pea, or Conk/Conch peas, for those who like them a little sweeter and creamier. Whatever your pleasure, Parkesdale Farms has your peas.

Parkesdale Pea Field

Most people have only heard of black-eyed peas because they eat them every New Year’s Day for a year of “prosperity”. Or maybe, “I Gotta Feeling,” you jammed out to Black Eyed Peas a time or 2, and were just wondering where they got their name.

If you still haven’t tried these delicious little peas, I’d recommend you come give them a try.

My favorite way to eat them, besides when Mama cooks them, is as a fresh salad, salsa or dip.

A quick and easy recipe by TheAnthonyKitchen.Com can be found at https://www.theanthonykitchen.com/black-eyed-pea-salad/

You can freshen this recipe up with Parkesdale Farms black-eyed peas, some avocado, tomatoes, onions, and other goodies from the Parkesdale Market http://www.parkesdale.com, and finish it off with some fresh feta or goat cheese.

So come and get your peas before they are gone. You can order them today by calling Parkesdale Farms at 813-659-2429, we will add you to a list and call you as soon as they are ready from the field.

From Ireland to Plant City….How Parkesdale Farms Began

By Erin Parke Watson

In 1925, the Parke family embarked on an adventure to America from Northern Ireland. Their destination….Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Shortly after their arrival, Bob (Roy’s father) got a job as a landscaper for the wealthy, while Mary Margaret raised the 3 boys: Roy, Jack, and David.

Roy and his younger brother, David.

They lived a simple life: work, the Grange aka the farm, and church.

When World War II broke out, all 3 boys were drafted into the Army. Roy went to basic training at Ft Meade, Maryland and later was stationed in Macon, Georgia as a Drill Sergeant.

R.E. “Roy” Parke, Jr.

Meanwhile, not far away in St. Louis, Missouri, Helen Hayes was going to school and working part time at the local Five & Ten store.

Helen Hayes Parke

As luck would have it, Roy was sent on a Detachment Service to St. Louis. The Army provided tons of pencils and notebooks to the Soldiers, but that didn’t stop them from frequenting the local Five & Ten store to flirt with all of the girls. Helen and Roy instantly connected.

“He was just different”, Helen said.  

6 weeks later they eloped and got married in Macon. This wasn’t because Roy was getting ready to deploy to Germany. He was actually supposed to stay in Macon as a drill sergeant. But the Army had other plans. And off they went on an all-expense paid government honeymoon to…. San Antonio, Texas.  

Roy and Helen

Shortly after settling in San Antonio, Roy got the word that he would be deployed to Germany. After his AIT Training in Louisiana, he spent 2 more weeks with his newly (and recently pregnant) bride before leaving in the Spring of ’44 for Germany.

While in Germany, every day, Roy would sit on the side of the horse cart and write to Helen.

Every. Single. Day.

Helen moved back to St. Louis during her pregnancy with her family. Where Cheryl Parke Meeks was born in Aug of ’45.

After the war was over, most of the soldiers, including Roy, were sent to Paris to de-condition them for life back state-side.

Soon the letters stopped coming and Helen began to worry. Roy made it almost unscathed during the war, but scarlet fever almost took his life while in Paris.

The Vulcania bringing the boys home from war.

After working at the bank for soldiers in Paris, Roy arrived with full fanfare in Philadelphia on the Vulcania in Jan ’46.

Cheryl and Sandee

He and Helen settled down in Greensburg, Pennsylvania with Roy’s parents, Bob and Mary Margaret on their 102-acre farm, named Willow Tree. It is here that daughter, Sandee (Parke) Sytsma, son, Bobby, and daughter, Colleen (Parke) Fulton were born and raised.

Colleen and Bobby

In the Winter of 1956, Bob and Mary Margaret went on a vacation to visit family on the east coast of Florida. Instead of driving back up the coast, they took the longer route through the middle of the state, passing through the small town of Plant City. They found the town fascinating and the name fitting for a farmer. They discovered a small 10-acre piece of land with hopes that Roy and Helen would come to love Florida, too.

And they did!

The Parke clan moved down to Florida in 1957. And on that small 10-acre plot of land, Parkesdale Farms was born.

To Be Continued………because the Parke’s youngest son, Gary, didn’t come until 1963.


The “Off Season”

By Erin Parke Watson

Parkesdale Farms is known throughout the world for their delicious strawberries. Florida is the 3rd largest producer of strawberries in the world, but the LARGEST producer during the winter months (Oct – March). 

Did you ever wonder why we don’t grow them year-round?

Have you ever been to Florida during the spring/summer months? No? Florida weather can be explained in 2 words: Muggy. Hot.  Not just regular hot, OH NO!  The kind of hot that makes you instantly sweat as soon as you step outside.  The kind of hot that makes the soles of your shoes melt.  Just kidding, or am I?

Strawberries need ideal temperature to grow and thrive.  They like it cool and dry.  So, the spring and summer months of Florida just aren’t ideal for strawberries.

BROCCOLI. We sell our broccoli local at our Parkesdale Farms Market. 

CABBAGE. Also sold locally.

STRAWBERRY ONION. Those delish sweet humongous onions can be found all over Plant City.

But we can’t take a break for 6 months just because the weather is temperamental!


PICKLES. No, not the kind in the jar.  But the ones you put IN the jar!! They are called Kirby cucumbers and they are a pickling size. Now most of you are wondering….“Isn’t a pickle just a cucumber?” 

There are different varieties of cucumbers, one being the fresh market “pickles” we grow. The Kirby cucumber has a thin skin, crisp flesh, and small seeds. We pick them in smaller sizes perfect for pickling. And they come in 4 different sizes! 

  • 3A – the best of the best
  • SFD – small fancy dill. Almost identical to the 3A
  • 3B – a little bit too big for pickling
  • 4A – the biggest.
  • There is a secret 5th size – Culls. These are the “ugly ducklings” of the bunch.  Grocery stores don’t like pickles that are misshaped or too big.  They aren’t “pleasing to the eye” to the customer, but they are still good to eat.

These grading sizes are determined by the USDA.  They must be a certain size and shape to be sold to market.  Their size determines their value.

SQUASH. Butternut. Spaghetti. Crookneck. Acorn. All the good ones!  


PEAS. Conchs. Black Eyes. Zippers.  You can buy them by the bushel and shell them yourself (a family tradition for most) or we can do the work for you!  These can be picked up at our Cooler in Dover. Just call ahead and place your order!

During the summer months, because the soil has done so much work growing ALL those fresh fruits and vegetables for you….it needs a spa day or 2 or 3, to replenish the nutrients the fruits and vegetables need to grow.  So, we lay down what is called, a cover crop.  It looks a lot like grass.  Benefits include: reduced soil compaction, natural addition of nitrogen and other nutrients, reduced soil erosion, greater water infiltration, weed control, and increased yield. We give the soil back what it needs, to provide all our wonderful customers, delish and fresh produce throughout the rest of the year, like those wonderfully delicious strawberries.

Why “Strawberry Onions”??

By: Erin Parke Watson

The number one question we get asked…. ALL THE TIME….Why are they called Strawberry Onions? 


  • There is no mysterious strawberry lurking in the middle of the onion
  • It does NOT taste like a strawberry

Strawberry onions are from the variety of Savannah Sweet onions. They are a mild, sweet onion. Strawberry farmers grow them along the outside rows of the strawberry beds for multiple reasons.

  • Real estate. No, not the kind where you buy a house. Instead of dedicating an entire field to only onions, you can get the same amount by planting them on the same rows as the strawberries.
  • Companion plants. Strawberries and onions when planted together are called companion planting. By putting 2 plants together, they make use of different nutrients, deter pests, and even attract pollinators to that location.
  • To keep the elephants out of the field. I know you are asking yourself, “WHAT???”. But have you ever seen an elephant in the field?? Must be working!!!

Our strawberry onions are grown seasonally, during the same time as our strawberries here in Plant City, Florida (Nov-March). They can get bigger than the size of your hand!!! And the ENTIRE thing can be used! They can even be left out to dry, which will make them last longer.

They are great for salads, soups, sandwiches, and some even eat them raw with a little salt and pepper!

So, the next time you drive by a strawberry farm and see the strawberry onions along the rows, look out for the elephants. You never know, you might catch one on the outskirts of the field!

COOL – Country of Origin Labeling

By Erin Parke Watson

So… I’m going to bring up a touchy subject.  One that is personal to me and I think should be addressed.

The USDA has this thing called Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). It is a labeling law that requires retailers, such as full-line grocery stores, supermarkets and club warehouse stores, to notify their customers with information regarding the source of certain foods. But in the mist of the Coronavirus, the USDA has eased its rules in an effort to redistribute food service product (that does not require the Country of Origin Labeling) into the retail stores.

What does this mean???

Your local grocery store…you know…the one right down the road from that strawberry field, could (and probably does) have strawberries grown in Mexico on the shelves (and sometimes even in the Fresh from Florida section!!). 

I’m sure you’re asking yourself, how is that even possible???…it’s right down the road??? Well, that’s because commerce coming over the border is cheaper (due to their fruits and vegetables being extremely less expensive to grow). 

Between the restaurant industry at a standstill during the Coronavirus and customers staying at home and not visiting the grocery store as often, farmers are having to turn to social media (did you notice our bushels of pickles for sell on our Facebook page??) to sell their products locally or their product is left to rot in the fields. 

What can I do about this?? 

  • Buy from your local farmers.  Contact them about what produce they have available.  Buy directly from them.
  • Contact your local grocery store.  Demand locally sourced produce. Make your voice heard loud and clear!

Farmers are the backbone of this country.  They put food on your table and provide the nutrition you need in your diet. They are the businesses you should also be supporting during this troubling time.

The History and Mission:


Parkesdale Farms, Inc. was started in 1957 in Dover, Florida by Robert Elmore Parke, Sr., and Robert Elmore “Roy” Parke, Jr. The father and son duo moved from Northern Ireland during the “Potato Famine” as vegetable farmers through Ellis Island  in the early 1920’s, planting roots in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Willow Tree Farm was the original farm name in Pennsylvania where the Parke Farmers focused on dairy and vegetable farming. With cold winters, these Irish immigrants began looking for warmer farming weather and ventured down to the Central Florida area where the temperature and sand was just right for vegetables and strawberries to be grown. Over the past 63 years, Roy’s family grew and the land and farm changed hands to his son’s, Robert H. “Bobby” and Gary Roy Parke, and eventually to Bobby and Peggy Parke, the current owners. Bobby and Peggy’s children are continuing the family business with Erin Parke Watson as the Director of Food Safety and Compliance, Kristen Parke Hitchcock as the Director of Finance and Business Development, and Robert Matthew “Matt” Parke as the Director of Operations. 

Mission Statement:

“Our mission at Parkesdale Farms is to grow, harvest, and ship the freshest fruits and vegetables to a family and table near you.”


      By Erin Parke Watson

15 April 2020

Uncertainty? Anxiety? Fear?  COVID-19 is a pretty scary virus, we all know this because we either have loved ones dealing with it on the front lines (we THANK YOU SO MUCH for your sacrifice and service), have experienced it ourselves (and we pray on the mend), or we see it every  time we get on social media or turn on the T.V (can’t this all be over already so I can start posting funny memes again??).

There is so much information circling the media about whether it’s safe to eat produce from the grocery store. So, I thought I would help answer THE BIG QUESTION most of you are concerned with regarding Food Safety during the coronavirus pandemic and what we here at Parkesdale Farms are doing to mitigate those risks.


The CDC reports, “Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Because of the poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.”  What we do know, is it is passed from human-to human transmission onto surfaces (like packaging) and via droplets (from a cough or a sneeze).  At Parkesdale, we have a very strict handwashing policy in place for all our employees. Our packaging is inspected at each delivery and safely stored in our facility until ready to use. Now…I know you are worried about the people that touched that packaging AFTER it left our farm.  I would be too.  But, just like you would, on a COVID free day, once you bring your fresh from the farm produce home, dispose of the packaging and wash your fruits and vegetables (while also washing your hands for at least 20 seconds).  So, don’t be afraid to support your community (and your immune system) and support local.

At Parkesdale Farms, we understand the importance of stepping up our sanitation game during this virus when it comes to your food being safe.  While we do these things every day, we have increased the frequency of our health and hygiene training for all our employeeshave supplied ample hand sanitizer at multiple locations for employees to use, and we had cute strawberry masks made for all the employees to wear during operating hours. We have Standard Sanitation Operating Procedures (SSOP’s) that is rigorously outlined and routinely followed in our Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan. HACCP is a way for us to monitor our food safety system to identify and control biological (like COVID-19), chemical (food grade sanitizers and EPA approved spray), and physical hazards (like rocks and metal) within our farm and cooling facility (just taught you guys a little bit about my job).

So don’t let that uncertainty, anxiety, and fear control the way you buy your produce.  We are all in this together…. #TogetherAlone.

Erin Parke Watson is the Director of Food Safety at Parkesdale Farms, Inc. and Parkesdale Farms Packing and Cooling, Inc.

What’s Growing?

Parkesdale Farms has been most well known for their delicious strawberries harvested from late November to early April, however, every Spring and Fall there’s another crop that keeps Parkesdale’s farmers working long hours to get food on your table….Pickles.

You read that right, pickles! I know, I know, I’ve heard it over and over again, pickles aren’t pickles until that cucumber is pickled.

  • There’s a kind of cucumber called a Kirby Cucumber that is sold as a fresh market Pickle.
  • Our pickles get sold across the United States to fresh markets, grocery stores, and sometimes processing plants.

This Spring, our harvest has been plentiful, but the Covid-19 scare has played a part in the pickles not being able to ship like it would normally from our farm to your table.

So we at Parkesdale are selling our pickles locally, straight from the farm, for your family to enjoy.

  • They can be cut fresh, add a little salt, and eat up. And drop any extras at your neighbors front door as a special surprise gift.
  • You can try your hand at canning. Make a family experience of it while you are at home together. There are tons of recipes on Pinterest to try.
  • Add them in your salad, quinoa, hummus or some other afternoon treat for an extra crunch.
  • Or my favorite: Creamy Cucumber Salad – mixture of cucumbers, sweet onions, mayonaisse, sugar, vinegar, and salt and pepper. (Recipe below)


Creamy Cucumber Salad Recipe 4 large Cucumbers • 1 medium Sweet Onion • 1 cup Mayonnaise • 1/2 cup White Sugar • 1/4 cup White Vinegar • Salt and Pepper to taste • Cover with a lid, shake lightly. • Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours (overnight works well). • Refrigerate leftovers. by Ann’s Entitled Life, www.annsentitledlife.com


  • When – Pickles will be available for sale everyday from 7am to 4pm until Tuesday, April 21st
  • WhereParkesdale Farms Packing and Cooling, Inc., at 3914 Tanner Rd., Dover, FL 33527
  • How Much$15 for 1 1/9 bushel of pickles. We take cash and cards.