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Area’s strawberry season  set to open

Pick-your-own may be about a week away

The berries are in.

But if you want to pick your own strawberries, you’ll have to wait, at least a few days.

Growers in Montague, Sunderland, Gill and Whately have begun picking this year’s berries, generally the second crop after asparagus. Thanks to unseasonably warm weather last week, the strawberries are slightly early, but not as early as they were last year, when picking began in mid-May.

Upinngil Farm had been considering opening its pick-your-own operation this coming weekend, but that’s been delayed by forecasts of rain today and Saturday.

“Maybe Sunday,” said farmer Sorrel Hatch. “It’s a really nice crop,” although the 1½-acre field planted with strawberries is slightly smaller than it was last year. Because the pick-your-own berries operation, about a quarter-mile south of the Main Road farmstand, opens at 8 a.m. and shuts down when supply is gone, she advised checking on the farm’s upinngil.com website or by calling 863-4431 first to check on conditions.

The farmstand began selling berries this week, said Hatch.

Montague’s Red Fire Farm has been picking strawberries for the past three weeks, according to farmer Ryan Voiland. These are two varieties of plants that use a different system of propagation and overwintering, and Voiland claims they taste as good as the best of the dozen or more typical June-bearing varieties. Those “slowerberries” began ripening a couple of days ago, but all are available at the farmstand. The farm’s pick-your-own operation should start up on Monday for CSA customers and prepaid farm share customers only, he said, although both have shares available.

Red Fire’s annual Strawberry Soiree dinner is planned for June 22.

At Warner Farm in Sunderland, farmer Michael Wisseman said he began picking his 5½ acres several days ago for retail sale, but he guessed that it would open by the middle of next week.

“It’s all about the weather,” he said. Late last week’s heat wave “helped move things along,” he said, and whereas there have been several nights below 30 degrees, they haven’t been damaging. What he said will help at this point is a little heat to continue the ripening, but not so much that the season rushes by.

At Nourse Farms in Whately, Tim Nourse said his 12 acres of strawberries will probably not be ready this weekend, and that he expects to start picking next week. The pick-your-own fields may be ready for the following weekend, depending on the weather.

“As long as we get some sunshine, it’s going to be a pretty good crop,” he predicted.

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