Spring holidays kick off California strawberry surge

03/28/2012 03:00:00 PM
Mike Hornick

In late February, CBS Farms’ central Mexico deal was approaching its end.

“We’re ahead of the game, but strawberries still aren’t sure whether it’s winter or spring,” Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms, said as March began.

“We may experience starts and stops on the Central Coast because we’re not sure what weather patterns to expect.

“Warmth brings on the crop quickly, but if rains decide to come and stick around, it’ll push the whole thing back. Still it’s better to have rain. Farmers have had to run sprinklers and irrigate.”

Salinas and Watsonville will peak in June, Red Blossom’s Deleissegues said.

Santa Maria — between Oxnard and Salinas — saw some early production.

“Last year at this time we had about 30 inches of rain — it’s below about 6 inches now,” said Paul Allen, owner of Santa Maria-based Main Street Produce.

“We had good quality but the plants were stressed and we didn’t get the production. They look much better now, and day temperatures are perfect for an early crop.”

By February, Main Street Produce had already done some picking of san andreas variety strawberries on Santa Maria’s east side, farther from the ocean. Closer to the coast, picking still had to wait a few weeks.

“We’d like to see Santa Maria peak in May,” Naturipe’s Lopes said.

“The past few years it was driven a little later by cold, but this year we’re in line.”

For the Easter market, Naturipe Farms anticipated contributions from beyond California.

“Florida had some hiccups a few weeks ago, but it will stay in until Easter,” Lopes said March 6.

“The crop is cleaned up now and the quality is good. We expect to see product out of Mexico as well. Supplies are shaping up pretty well everywhere.”


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