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Strawberry season has arrived

Strawberry season is here, and farmers are eagerly welcoming guests and their strawberry-picking buckets.

“Consumers can expect a good fruit load on the plant, with flavorful, red berries,” Dr. Jayesh Samtani said, a small fruit specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension. “We had a warmer November, which advanced plant growth and development. On some varieties, we could see a few ripe berries just before Christmas in coastal Virginia, but the winter season has kept the plants dormant, and this spring we are seeing good blooms and fruits.”

In mountainous Nelson County, Anne Seamans Kidd of Seamans’ Orchard Inc. said their strawberries got hit with some cold weather, but they still have plenty available for pickers.

“So far it looks like we’ll have a good crop of strawberries,” she said. “We did see some loss from the second frost that we had a couple weeks ago. For it to be a good growing season, we need the weather to stay warm and dry—hot and wet weather ruins strawberries quickly.”

She added the farm’s May 1 opening was successful due to the nice weather.

“I think people are excited to be able to come out and pick their own,” she said.

At Cullipher Farm in Virginia Beach, Michael Cullipher said his crop is abundant, and crowds are showing up for his farm’s U-pick strawberries.

“We went back to doing U-pick this year, and we’ve been surprised at how many people returned to us,” explained Cullipher, a member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Specialty Crops Advisory Committee. “It’s more than in 2019.”

While the U-pick season is starting off strong, both Cullipher and Kidd are watching to see if momentum remains throughout the spring as COVID-19 restrictions loosen and people can safely enjoy more recreational pursuits. U-pick was one of the main activities people could participate in last year, but with schools returning to in-person learning and more recreational options, Kidd speculated that may affect customer numbers.

“We all are ready to get back to enjoying more outside activities like we did prior to the pandemic,” she said. “It’s possible that we’ll see a decrease in numbers that come out for U-pick now versus last season.”

Cullipher said he’s awaiting the summer months when people go on vacations and start traveling again.

“This is still one of the best things you can do activity-wise,” he said. “You get some exercise, you’re out in fresh air. I just try to remind people it was there before, and it’s still here now. As other things come available, try not to forget about visiting farms.”