Weather to blame for late start to strawberry season

Apr. 08, 2013 @ 06:01 PM

It's a colder-than-normal spring — and not a set of out-of-country viruses — that has delayed Lee County's strawberry harvest this year — with ritual berry-pickers expecting to head to the fields in the coming weeks.

Warmer weather is anticipated all this week, and area strawberry farmers said they are hoping to open their farms to the public by mid- to late April.

Barry Harrington, owner of Barry's Strawberry Farm, said his "run-of-the-mill farm" began as a side project, with neighbors helping to harvest the berries. With a date dependent on the the weather, Harrington said he hopes his strawberries will ripen and be picked by his customers as soon as possible.

"We have a loyal strawberry base," he said.  "Once you get them, they are pretty loyal to you."

The farm, located at 4047 Cox Mill Road, is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Harrington said.

"We encourage people to come and pick their own berries," he said. "We guarantee the freshest and only pick enough to keep on the counter."

Bill Logan, of Logan Farms, said he also anticipates visits from his loyal core of pickers once the strawberries are ready for harvest.

"People just love picking strawberries," Logan said. "They enjoy it, for one thing. It's fresh and local. They just like picking berries, or is sure seems like it anyway."

Logan has grown strawberries for more than 20 years at his family farm, located at 110 Logan Farm Lane.

Some North Carolina strawberry farmers were impacted by a pair of viruses from Nova Scotia, but none in Lee County, according to N.C. State University Cooperative Extension Strawberry Specialist Barclay Poling.  Nearly 13 percent of all of North Carolina's strawberry plants were affected by the virus, resulting a 4 percent decrease of strawberries coming from North Carolina this year.

"People are nervous about a virus, and I want to quickly establish that this is a plant disease," Poling said. "It doesn't affect human health, and the virus slows down the growth of the strawberry plant."

The impacted plants will still yield strawberries, he said, but not as many in a typical harvest.

"(The strawberry shortfall is) not a big deal," Poling said. "One hail storm in Sanford could do the same thing. It's a small amount of (North Carolina's) crops."

Logan said he hadn't heard of any Central Carolina farm being impacted by the virus.

"It's not so bad," he said. "We are picking a little later than usual this year because of the cold. We were picking berries this time last year."

According to the North Carolina Strawberry Association, Lee County strawberry farms include:

* Gross Farms, located at 1606 Picket Road.

* Barry's Strawberry Farm, located at 4047 Cox Mill Road.

* Logan Farms, located at 110 Logan Farm Road.

* McNeill Farms and Nursery, located at 5948 Lemon Springs Road.

* Gary Thomas Farms, located at 443 Thomas Road.