What’s Growing On: Strawberry Season Struggles

2023 is shaping up to be the slowest start to the strawberry harvest in nearly 50 years.
Published: Jan. 22, 2023 at 11:44 AM EST
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OXFORD, Fla. (WCJB) - From December through March, strawberry farms all across NCFL rely on visitors to harvest their strawberry’s — but this year it’s slim pickins’.

Mary Beth Locke, owner of Back Road Berries in Oxford says she’s never seen her field look this bad this far into the season.

Strawberry plants are a winter crop, so they’re hardy to the winter, but the fruit’s itself and the flower are not.

Strawberry flowers, which produce berries in roughly three-week cycles from around thanksgiving through easter can be burned by freezing temperatures.

And when freezing temperatures are in the forecast growers face the hard decision of hoping the temperature won’t fall below freezing and turning on sprinklers that will coat the strawberry plants in a thin layer of ice, creating an almost igloo-like effect.

Even still, because of our moderate weather, florida plants and harvests strawberries in different seasons when compared to the rest of the united states. Which is why since 1930 the state has celebrated the florida strawberry festival and has instituted February as florida’s strawberry month.

The strawberry fruit is well known worldwide for its sweetness, color, and juiciness and the well known strawberry we eat today is actually a hybrid species as a result of seed breeding that was made in the 1750s in France.

Locke has fought drought and consistent cold snaps, in the last 4 months. Not to mention the winds and rain from Hurricane Ian and Tropical Storm Nicole.

And this doesn’t just affect the grower. It affects the men and women who are picking the strawberries and the supplier that’s selling fertilizer, as well as the processing plant. It has a complete trickle down effect.

And with February being Florida’s Fabulous Strawberry month any freezing temperatures we see in the next few weeks will severely hinder the prime harvest season.

To find a strawberry farm near, click here: https://pickyourown.farm/farms/gainesville-fl/

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