California strawberry season off to fast start

03/14/2014 11:21:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

Wish Farms has production in Santa Maria and Salinas. Reich said the Santa Maria fields looked “fantastic, probably the best I’ve seen them in the last three years.”

“There was good early plant development and very clean fruit. Santa Maria, time-wise, should ramp up for that Easter period. That’s always a key holiday, and this year the way Santa Maria is sitting, there should be some really quality fruit and volume out of here.”

Wish Farms’ Salinas fields were a few weeks behind.

The season typically starts in Southern California and Oxnard, then moves north into Santa Maria and eventually into Salinas-Watsonville as the season progresses.

Jim Grawbowski, marketing director for Watsonville-based Well-Pict Berries, said most production is close to a month ahead of schedule.

“I think it should be really good for Easter,” he said. “Because of the early start, we’re anticipating all three districts operating by Easter. So barring any weather related catastrophe, we should see plenty of strawberries available for Easter time.”

With everything ahead of schedule, some districts could also be ending earlier than they typically would.

“Because Oxnard started early and came on strong, the only down side is it may end earlier than usual,” said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for California Giant Berry Farms LLC, Watsonville. What it will mean is less overlap among the other districts, with Oxnard likely continuing through about Mother’s Day, she said.

During 2013, the state shipped about 194.76 million trays, according to the commission.

This season, growers planted 39,073 acres, about 6.7% less than in 2013. Much of the reduction came from the Oxnard area, Christian said.

But she said she didn’t expect the roughly 2,600-acre loss to affect volume much, since the unusually dry winter minimized early-season crop loss from rain.


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