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Students Stick With Strawberry for State Fruit

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GOLDSBORO — Some Goldsboro elementary school studentshave refused to back down from their stance that the strawberryshould be North Carolina's state fruit.

Their position could prevent a bill from being passed this year,a legislator said Monday.

A retooled Senate bill recommends the scuppernong grape as theofficial state fruit, with the strawberry as the official red berryand the blueberry as the official blue berry.

That's not good enough, say students at Tommy's Road ElementarySchool, who want the strawberry to get top billing.

"We asked the students if they wanted to compromise. We toldthem there'd be a real possibility that we won't be able to getthis done this year if they didn't," said Rep. Carolyn Russell,R-Wayne. "They voted not to compromise, so that's what I'll do."

The civic lesson began with Russell's visit last winter withManning Musgrave's fourth-grade class at Tommy's Road Elementary.As Russell explained her role as a lawmaker, an idea jelled for thestudents: "let's make a law."

They discovered that the state didn't have an official fruit andproposed the strawberry.

North Carolina farmers grew more than 23 million pounds ofstrawberries in 2000, a crop worth more than $17.3 million, theyfound.

In February, Russell sponsored a bill that the N.C. House ofRepresentatives passed a month later, just as the firststrawberries were turning red. Strawberry season came and went.Peach season came and went. Baseball season came and almost wentbefore the Senate took the bill seriously enough to discuss it atany length.

In late September, the Senate passed a bill that extols thescuppernong grape. The bill quotes British explorers who reportedto Queen Elizabeth in the late 1500s that the barrier islands ofNorth Carolina were full of grapes, "grapes of such greatness, yetwild, as France, Spain, nor Italy hath not greater."

The Senate bill also notes that the state toast, written in1904, refers to North Carolina as the land where the scuppernongperfumes the breeze at night.

The Senate bill proposes the dual-berry status for thestrawberry and the blueberry, noting "these delicious berries area good source of vitamins, a number of life-sustaining minerals,and dietary fiber."

State farmers grew 17.5 million pounds of blueberries last year,a crop valued at $18.1 million, according to state agriculturalstatistics. Agricultural production of all types of grapes, notjust the thick-skinned scuppernongs, totaled 2,300 tons, which soldfor $2.7 million.

After the Senate passed its version of the bill, the House hadtwo options: to approve the Senate's three-fruit version or tocontinue fighting for the sole designation for the strawberry.

Russell left the decision to the students, who are now spreadamong three fifth-grade classes at Tommys Road. They voted 44-3 tostick with the strawberry.

The General Assembly has appointed a conference committee thatwill try to cobble a bill together before the end of the session.

"The blueberry spoiled the bill for the students," Russellsaid. "They weren't willing to share top berry status. I think weall could have lived with the grape."

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