By Clint Thompson
Mark Hoffmann, North Carolina State small fruits Extension specialist, had high praise for this year’s strawberry crop.
“This is the best strawberry season ever in North Carolina. I’ve only been here for three years but that’s what all people are telling me; they’ve never had such a good strawberry season,” Hoffmann said.
It appears a relatively mild spring, absent of major frost events, helped growers prolong this year’s growing season. Hoffmann estimated that last week should have wound up the state’s harvest.
“We got lucky. With the exception of late April and the one frost event in May, we didn’t have a lot of really cold events. We had one time where we had a lot of snow but that was there just for one day. I think that was in late February, early March,” Hoffmann said. “After that, we went through three frost events, which is very unusual. We usually have much more than that.”
Hoffmann Sensed Bumper Crop
Hoffmann sensed a couple of months ago that North Carolina farmers were ready to experience a bumper crop, if the weather held up.
“Some people had a very mild winter. If you put some row covers on your berries, you had like pretty early bloom. We actually had bloom on the berries in January. If you kept those blooms and kept row covers over the berries and plants, you would start picking in February,” Hoffmann said.
Prices also remained strong. Growers benefited from consumers wanting to buy local.
“If you sell in a farm stand or sell on a farmer’s market, consumers tend to pay more than they would in the grocery store because it’s local and we grow different cultivars here; the flavor is different,” Hoffmann said.
Hoffmann estimates that strawberries in North Carolina generates $26 million per year, which makes it the third largest in the country behind California and Florida.
For more information about strawberry production in North Carolina, see N.C. State strawberry website.