EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

June 18, 2014

Strawberry crop is bigger, pricier

Strawberries ripe for the picking

Strawberries are ripe, plentiful and a little bit more expensive.

Local farmers said they haven’t set their prices yet, but rising fuel and container costs will likely result in an increase this year.

But customers will get bigger, juicier berries.

Dan Hicks, owner of Sunnycrest Farms in Londonderry, said his is “one of the largest crops” of strawberries he has seen.

Thank the recent warm weather.

Hicks said strawberries do best at temperatures in the mid-70s, with irrigation or some rain.

“A lot of guys will say high 60s, but that’s a little unrealistic for mid-June,” he said.

If the temperature is higher, the fruit will all ripen at the same time and farmers prefer to stagger their harvests so the fruit remains in stock longer.

If there is too much rain, the low-lying strawberries will sit in water, causing rot and ruined plants.

“You never know what the weather’s going to do,” Hicks said. “That affects everything, even attitude.”

It’s a short season and growers hope to capitalize on the recent stretch of good weather.

“It’s always the factor of the costs and the supply and demand, like any economic commodity, and the timing whether they all come out at once or they get spread out over several weeks,” New Hampshire Agricultural Commissioner Lorraine Merrill said. “It’s a short season and I think a lot of people think it’s worth the extra cost.”

Mary Stewart, the farm stand manager at Smolak Farm in North Andover, said their strawberry crop is about two weeks later than usual because of a lot of rain. But it hasn’t affected the quality, she said.

“The quality that’s coming out that we’re seeing coming out on the farmstand are excellent,” she said.

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