Virginia strawberry harvest right on track
Spring may have been a little late this year, at least according to the thermometer, but strawberry growers say 2018 is a return to normal compared to the last few years, with a ripening date around May 1. Gail Moody Milteer, regional marketing manager and strawberry specialist at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, says the plants this year are some of the best she has ever seen.
Grower Lowell Yoder from Rustburg says Mother Nature got off track the past couple of years with warmer-than-usual winters, but this year she is behaving more normally. His plants are “looking great” and he anticipates a normal season with picking most of the month of May.
Yoder says cooler early spring temperatures created a “roller coaster of weather,” but that his berries came through okay. “Those delicious red berries make all the extra work worthwhile,” he added.
Tom Baker of Brookdale Farm in Virginia Beach picked the first, almost-ripe berries April 8. He anticipates his farm will open daily around April 28 and says the crop on their farms looks really good.
Ben Miller from Miller Farm Market in northern Virginia’s Locust Grove says their Sweet Charlie, Festival and Albion varieties should be ready May 1. The Chandler-type strawberries likely will ripen in mid-May, extending the picking season.
Bettina Ring, Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, notes that Virginia has been growing strawberries a long time. In fact, the modern strawberry has Virginia in its name, Fragaria virginiana, one of two species of strawberry that was hybridized to create the modern domesticated garden strawberry.
“There’s nothing quite like a fresh, sun-ripened, juicy strawberry for eating out of hand, in salads, or with ice cream or yogurt,” she said. “I encourage strawberry lovers and health-conscious consumers to support their local producers and Virginia’s economy by purchasing fresh, Virginia grown strawberries from a nearby farm, farmers’ market, roadside stand or grocery store.”