Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms has more acreage this year and expects weather to cooperate for the season.

Overall strawberry acreage is up about 15% and overall blueberry acreage is up about 25%.

Some of the growth can be attributed to increased availability of two new short-day strawberry varieties, Petaluma and Fronteras, that will be part of the company's Oxnard, Calif., program, according to a news release. The addition of acreage in Oxnard marks the first such expansion for California Giant in several years.

"Short-day varieties are developed specifically for Southern California regions that have a season during the short days of winter and spring," Cindy Jewell, vice president of marketing, said in an e-mail. "These varieties begin their season earlier than those 'day-neutral' (varieties) that are for northern regions that have a longer summer harvest season. The benefit of the earlier beginning to the season is stronger supply during the shoulders of the season."

Forecasting volume during the first quarter may be difficult because of rain in California, but the sales staff is optimistic about availability since the company sources from Florida and Mexico as well as from California, according to the release.

The company will provide updates on conditions in its bi-weekly e-newsletter, and it will also respond to questions.

Thus far, the effect of rain has been manageable.

"We definitely have had weather disruptions due to rain, but rain in January is expected and the disruptions are short, so we are able to go in and clean up the fields, strip off any damaged fruit and get back into production within a few days," Jewell said in her e-mail. "Plus, the rain is still needed due to several years of drought in California."

Overall, the company foresees a more normal winter weather pattern in California, with rain expected and snowpack nearly in the normal range.

 
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