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Some Strawberry Growers in a "Jam"

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APEX — Take a look at any commercial berry patch and you'll see growers ready to cash in on their crops.

But some Apex growers are finding themselves in an advertising "jam," one that could squash their profits.

The problem is signs: farmers are not allowed to use them due to a local ordinance that regulates all signs, including off-premises real estate signs.

So the strawberries are in the last week of good picking, but some customers have a challenging time finding Karma Lee's farm. She's says it's because the town of Apex won't let her put up signs directing them to her strawberry patch.

"It's been slow but it's been steady and as the years go on it will get better. But it would get better a whole lot quicker if our signs could go up," Lee said.

Apex leaders say they would like to help her out, but if they do so they would have to allow real estate firms to erect their signs as well. That's something they don't want to do.

"The real estate group was very upset," says Christine Hilt, an Apex commissioner, "when we actually enacted the ordinance that did not allow off-site premises signs. So we anticipate that if we made an exception they would possibly have a problem with that as well."

Lee says strawberry growers in nearby towns are allowed to put up their signs. She is convinced there is room for middle ground.

"Some how, some way there is a solution. They should be able to allow seasonal agricultural signs to be up just during the season," Lee says.

Cary and Garner do allow such agricultural off-premises signs, in some cases with permits.

Because the season is so short, most growers feel the need for roadside signs to determine a "make or break" situation.