Central Coast growers have seen strawberry crops rebound after early damage caused by cold weather. California experienced a series of storms and freezing temperatures in early spring that had many farmers concerned about potential crop losses, but it appears that the industry is bouncing back.
“The plants are really coming back stronger and more productive than they would normally be this time of year,” said Manzanita Berry Farms General Manager Dave Peck. “Strawberries get a little more boost in vigor from cold weather and it could be that freeze gave them just another little shot in the arm.”
When the cold temperatures initially swept through California in late February there was some concern regarding the extent of damage growers might be looking at. Manzanita Berry Farms in Santa Maria was not the only operation to be affected by the freeze. Many growers experienced some significant losses as a result of the temperatures. “The freeze pretty much just burned off about 50 percent of the flowering fruit that was sitting in the field almost all across the valley,” said Peck. “It took out a lot of the March production that was beginning to open flower in February when the freeze hit.”
Despite the setbacks earlier in the year, many farmers in Peck’s area are seeing strawberry crops rebound. With the freezing temperatures actually helping with increased vigor, some growers have noticed more productive fields. “We’re seeing higher production numbers just the last few weeks than we would normally have in late April, early May. So right now, it looks good and the weather has been very favorable to us the last month or so,” said Peck.
As crops recover and improve after the freeze, the next challenge that growers will be addressing is labor. “Right now, we’re not seeing any labor shortages, although we always expect that late May, early June,” Peck noted.
Listen to Peck’s interview below.