Wet conditions threaten Erie-area strawberry crop

6/13/2013 9:00 AM
By Associated Press

ERIE, Pa. (AP) — A wet May helped set up what local growers believe could be an exceptional strawberry crop.

But a wet June could mean a lot of moldy strawberries and lost money for those same farmers.

That is why John Mason Sr. has a simple plea for Mother Nature: "We could definitely use less rain."

But rain is in the forecast for at least the next few days.

At Troyer's Strawberry Acres in Waterford, the wet weather has pushed back the opening of the strawberry fields to people looking to pick their own. But baskets were available at the farm's stand in Waterford earlier this week, and vice president Ellery Troyer said he is optimistic for the season.

"It's been a pretty good spring so far," Troyer said. "All this rain can be a bit rough on us, but we'll have a good crop if we can make it through the next two days."

Both Troyer and Mason said persistently wet conditions, like what they experienced in May and what they expect to continue today, is exactly what is required for fungus and mold to grow on their crops and destroy them. Mason said that threat also looms over his other crops, particularly tomatoes.

May saw almost 6 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service in Cleveland. That is more than twice the average amount.

Rain is likely today with severe thunderstorms in the forecast. And rain is possible every day through at least Tuesday, according to the weather service's forecasts.

But both farmers were confident their crops would make it intact if the area doesn't experience more damaging weather conditions like hail.

Troyer said his fields should open to people looking to pick strawberries by early next week.

On Wednesday, representatives at Finnell Farms in Harborcreek Township were telling people interested in picking strawberries to come out that day to beat the rain.

Mason said his farm near Lake City has already opened to pick-your-own customers. Many were out Wednesday morning to get berries while the weather was sunny and dry.

Barb Craig, 71, of McKean Township, stopped at Mason Farms in Girard Township on Wednesday morning. She said she likes to pick her own because it's cheaper than buying berries at a store. She paid $8.50 to fill a 4-quart basket.

Troyer's similarly discounts berries for those who pick them. People can buy 4 quarts of berries at their Waterford stand for $12.50 or pick their own for $7.50.

Craig said so far the crop at Mason Farms looks fantastic.

"This year they're really wonderful berries," she said. "They just look excellent."

Mason agreed with Craig's assessment, and he said people who love strawberries should take advantage of that soon -- especially if the threat of wet weather persists.

"So far, what we've been picking looks great," Mason said. "But this year, I don't think I'd wait too long."

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Information from: Erie Times-News, http://www.goerie.com


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