Mother Nature has a way of wreaking havoc on local crops. Despite a cold and wet winter, local strawberries, as well as berries across the eastern region of the state, are ripe and ready for picking.
Locally, Parker Farms, began picking April 21. Parker’s has been in business for more than 75 years and is located on Mt. Moriah Church Road in the Herring community.
“The weather slowed us down a little,” Sondra Butler said. “Our berries came off about a week later than normal.”
According to sales figures, North Carolina is the 4th largest producer of strawberries in the United States. While last season posed a challenge for strawberry farmers, with a late April cold snap delaying the readiness of the fruit, this season looks to be promising.
“The cold doesn’t hurt the strawberries as much as the rain,” Butler added. “The rain prevents the berries from sweetening up. Your first berry is always going have a little bit to it.”
While the April 21 date may seem a little behind schedule, Butler said it’s about accurate for the farm’s normal picking schedule. Much of this Thursday’s weather was damp, bringing in a misting rain all day and keeping Parker’s pickers from getting into the field like normal.
“Our pickers went out early this morning,” Butler added. “They were able to get some of the berries off before it began raining heavier. We are hoping it doesn’t rain much more this season.”
Over the last few days, since picking season began, Butler said the berries have had a chance to ripen more, leaving a juicy and sweet berry behind.
Lucky for those strawberry enthusiasts — the strawberry season is good for another four weeks.
“We usually have strawberries until the end of May,” Butler said. “Some seasons last longer than others. If we get too much rain, it isn’t good for the berries.”
In addition to Parker’s two acres of strawberry crops, the farm also grows peas, turnips, onions and cabbages. Spring onions are coming off now, but according to Butler, it will be another week on the turnips and vidalia onions and in about three more weeks, they will have squash and zucchini.
Parker’s began under the ownership of B.A. Parker and is now owned by his granddaughter and her husband, Kim and Alan Breedlove.
The shed located on the farm is open Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. The farm has a tent on N.C. 24 in the parking lot of The Ink Spot. The tent is open Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., or as long as produce is available.