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A Sweet Berry Bounty
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Saturday, June 01, 2013 5:00 AM
Emily Franklin, 7, of Commiskey, picks strawberries while her sister, Kylee, 5, walks along side the patch at Shorty’s Farm near Kent. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
Kylie Eversman, left, and Maria Soule work in a strawberry patch at Starrberry Farm near Canaan. The farm has workers, like Eversman and Soule, and also allows customers to pick their own strawberries. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchieemail@example.com)
Weather provided a better growing season this year for early spring fruits after a dismal harvest last year.
A few Jefferson County locations have opened their farms to visitors hoping to pick their own strawberries or purchase fruits fresh from the fields.
After a bad season for agriculture in 2012, plants produced enough for a good harvest this spring.
Last year, Starrberry Farm didn't have enough fruits in the field to open as a u-pick location like previous years, owner Lori Starr said. The second frost of the year in 2012 killed most everything, except for a few berries here and there.
"We lost about half of our field," she said.
When Starr did go out to the field, most of the berries were about half the size they should have been. Others were dead on the vines, and only a few were usable.
"We were done picking by this time last year," Starr said.
The Starrs had decided to expand their half-acre strawberry patch in 2011, planting an area twice the size they had before. The strawberry plants did not produce the first year while creating a strong root system, but the second year's harvest wasn't much better. All of the strawberries had been picked by the end of April 2012.
But the weather in 2013 has been much more favorable for strawberries.
"This year was good," Starr said.
The rains came at the right time, and the plants had enough sun to produce this year.
The one-acre strawberry patch at Starrberry Farm at 7723 N. Whippoorwill Road near Canaan has rows and rows of ripe strawberries ready to pick. Starr expects the fruits to be harvested for at least the next few weeks.
Jonelle Ponder also noticed a major difference in the strawberry harvests at her family's farm - known as Shorty's - at 12844 W. State Road 256, west of Kent. The harvest was poor last year because of abnormally warm weather in April, she said, yet this year's crop had to be saved from an unexpected late frost in early May.
Nearly 100 bales of straw were used to make sure the crop would be okay from cold temperatures weeks before the harvest.
After years of providing farm-fresh produce to the local area, the farm opened their field to u-pick visitors for the first time about a week ago. Ponder expects berries to be available for about another week before the season will be over for this year, she said.
Both farms also sell other fruits and vegetables throughout the summer and hope for a better yield this year - as long as favorable growing conditions for crops continue.
PHOTOS: A Sweet Berry Bounty
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