After a mild winter, the North Carolina strawberry crop is expected to ripen early and be abundant at most of the 200 farms across the state, according to the North Carolina Strawberry Association (NCSA).
"Based on the blooms and green berries they're now seeing in their fields, a majority of growers across North Carolina will have strawberries ready 10 days to two weeks earlier than usual, thanks to a winter impacted by La Nina," says Debby Wechsler, NCSA executive secretary.
"The opening dates will vary for each strawberry farm, so be sure to contact your local grower before you visit to pick or buy," Wechsler explains.
A strawberry farm locator can be accessed at www.ncstrawberry.com.
"The strawberry season will open with a bang, and it will be a heavy crop," says David Dycus, regional agronomist in the Sandhills with the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. He says it's a similar scenario for other North Carolina crops growing right now, particularly wheat and peaches.
Strawberry Growers' Observations from Around the State
Observations from NCSA member growers throughout the state confirm it will be an early and abundant season for strawberries if the weather remains warm and doesn't turn cold between now and harvest.
Triangle-area/Raleigh -- Vollmer Farm, Bunn, N.C.
"I picked three, 5-pound buckets of my early variety strawberries already," says John Vollmer, an organic strawberry grower located in Bunn. "This is the first time I've picked strawberries this early," he adds. He says his fields will open for public picking the first week of April with strawberries also available in his market.
Strawberries are planted in the fall and grow throughout the winter. Vollmer says that during most winters he has 12 to 16 nights of frost protection, with March bringing the greatest weather threats. "This year we only had six nights of frost protection," explains Vollmer who has grown strawberries on his Triangle-area farm since 1993.
Coastal Plains/Greenville area -- Strawberries on 903, Winterville, N.C.
"In the 12 years I've been growing strawberries, this is by far the mildest winter and earliest crop I've ever seen. Our crop looks good this year with no disease problems," says Mike Skinner, co-owner of Strawberries on 903, a 4th generation family farm located in a National Historic District. "I want to be cautiously optimistic. Normally we open around the third week of April, but this year we could be picking by April 10."
Central Piedmont -- Kildee Farms, Ramseur, N.C.
"Right now it looks like the season will be early with plenty of berries to pick, so don't wait," says NCSA's President Michael Beal, who grows three acres of strawberries on his 4th generation farm located near Siler City. He estimates his strawberry crop will be ready by April 15. Last year he opened Kildee Farms on April 26. "My job is to make sure people know the season will be early. If the weather remains warm, we should have strawberries throughout the typical season of April into June. Monitor farm websites and Facebook pages and always call ahead before you come out," he advises.
Southern Piedmont/Charlotte area -- Patterson Farm, Inc., China Grove, NC
"We're seeing lots of healthy plants and good blooms which indicate it should be a bumper crop," says Doug Patterson, co-owner of Patterson Farm, Inc. in China Grove. "Right now, our strawberry crop is earlier than last year. We usually open May 1, but we might be open by April 25 this season," speculates Patterson who grows 36 acres of strawberries with his brother on a 3rd generation family farm that dates back to 1919.
Contact: Angela Jamison