‘The good thing about a lot of rain is that you get really big strawberries’

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  • Strawberries Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

For the Recorder
Published: 7/3/2019 10:00:15 AM

“Don’t be one of the people who lets strawberry season pass them by. The trick with berries is to get them while you can,” said Dave Wissemann of Warner Farm in Sunderland.

Wissemann would know — his family has been growing strawberries for generations. The fruiting season for early summer-bearing strawberries ranges and can be shockingly brief, according to Wissemann.

“In a good year, it’s four weeks long. In a bad year, it can be as short as two,” he said.

Local strawberries are available throughout the growing season here in the Pioneer Valley, but Wissemann is quick to point out that the most delicious strawberries are the June-bearing varieties, which flower in May and then produce their only crop of fruit in June and early July.

On Warner Farm, preparations for strawberry season began back in April when the team pulled away the thick layer of straw that had covered the plants over the winter. Strawberries are perennials that can survive the winter in a dormant state, but deceptive winter warm spells have been known to trick the plants into awakening, only to be devastated when the temperature dips back down.

The straw ensures that the strawberries stay dormant for the duration of winter.

Since the team removed the protective straw, Wissemann says they have kept a close eye on the weather forecast. A spring frost can be deadly for a strawberry crop. As a precaution, the team set up an overhead irrigation system above the strawberry patches.

According to Wissemann, watering the plants during a frost is one of the best protections a strawberry farmer has in the toolbox. He says he’s awoken at 3 a.m. on many cold April mornings over past years to turn on the irrigation. The water freezes on the plants and as it transforms into ice, it releases heat, stabilizing the temperature at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The ice encases the strawberries and prevents the plants from experiencing a deeper frost below 28 degrees, even as the temperature in the air continues to drop.

This year, Wissemann says the strawberry crop is looking fantastic after a wet spring.

“The good thing about a lot of rain is that you get really big strawberries,” he said.

Pick-your-own strawberry fields are open at farms across the region. Wissemann says he loves the strong culture of pick-your-own here in the Pioneer Valley and he says the best way to eat strawberries is out in the field right after you’ve plucked them from a plant. With so much pick-your-own available, we can all get out there to enjoy some strawberries the way the farmers do.

Noah Baustin is the Communications Coordinator at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)




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