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Weather-wary growers hoping for sweet strawberry season
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Weather-wary growers hoping for sweet strawberry season

VIRGINIA BEACH—Like the rest of Virginia’s farmers, strawberry growers have been dealing with an extremely wet winter and early spring. But if the sun comes out soon, they’re hoping for a sweet picking season.

“There are plenty of blooms and fruit set. I think there’s an excellent crop to be had,” said Roy Flanagan, a Virginia Beach grower and Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. “We just need dry weather so we can get them picked, especially on the weekends.

“We’re asking for rain only on Mondays and Tuesdays for the next few weeks, and just for the strawberries,” he joked. Actually, “drip irrigation is the only water you want to give them when they’re ripening like this.”

Fresh strawberries are the quintessential springtime treat and are raised on more than 300 farms in the Old Dominion. Most are sold fresh from farm stands or farmers’ markets, or harvested at pick-your-own venues. Some are sold in grocery stores, but only locally. The varieties raised in Virginia are bursting with juice and flavor but do not ship well. Virginia Beach growers are typically among the first to open their farms to pickers in the spring.

“A few growers were saying 30 percent of the crop could be ready by Easter this year, but I don’t think that will happen now,” Flanagan said. “But one you-pick farm will be opening around April 10.”

Strawberry plants are particularly vulnerable to late frosts or excessive wet weather. Most growers have dodged freezing weather so far this year, Flanagan said, and they’ve kept any disease problems in check as the berries mature.

The season for picking strawberries is relatively short, about three weeks to a month. Sometimes it gets compressed into an even shorter period if the earliest berries are delayed by cloudy, wet weather. Then an entire crop can mature almost at once instead of staggered over time, Flanagan explained.

To find a pick-your-own strawberry farm or a farm stand with fresh berries near you, visit virginiagrown.com.

Media: Contact Flanagan at 757-385-4769 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.

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