N.C. strawberry growers expect to start the season early this year despite a recent cold snap. Many growers in the eastern part of the state are already picking berries nearly two weeks ahead of schedule.
“Our growers are very experienced with dealing with late frosts and know how to protect their crops,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Because of their diligent efforts, this season shows a lot of promise with plenty of strawberries available. Plus, since we had warm weather in winter, consumers will be able to enjoy fresh berries even earlier.”
Some you-pick farms are already open for business. T.C. Smith Produce Farm in Lenoir County has been picking strawberries since April 1. Owner Curtis Smith says he expects to have strawberries through June. Smith, who is vice president of the N.C. Strawberry Association, says growers across the state report having a good crop this year.
The majority of growers in Eastern North Carolina should have strawberries available this week. In the Piedmont, consumers can expect strawberries by the last week of April. Western growers will have strawberries available by the first week of May.
Consumers interested in picking their own strawberries can find a farm locator map on the association’s website at www.ncstrawberry.com/growers.cfm. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also maintains a database of strawberry growers, roadside stands and farmers markets that carry strawberries at www.ncfarmfresh.com.
Strawberry Days at farmers markets
To celebrate the season, the department will host Strawberry Days at each of the four state-operated farmers markets. The events will be held at the Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax on May 6; the State Farmers Market in Raleigh on May 12; the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market in Charlotte on May 20; and the WNC Farmers Markets in Asheville on May 27. Each event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and features free samples of strawberry ice cream, plenty of fresh strawberries from local growers and a visit from Suzy Strawberry. The Colfax and Raleigh dates also include a strawberry recipe contest.
North Carolina is the fourth-largest producer of strawberries in the nation. In 2015, N.C. growers produced 14.3 million pounds of strawberries, according to data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service.