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Strawberry growers at the mercy of Mother Nature

CENTRAL COAST, Calif. (KION) May is national strawberry month! And right now, production is in full swing in Salinas and surrounding areas. Size, shape, volume and taste, a lot goes into growing strawberries and Mother Nature has a lot to do with it. Strawberries have basked in the weather here on the Central Coast for decades

Farmers say the fog that rolls in keeps temperatures mild, giving the plant a chance to develop a nice, sweet fruit. That's why you see miles of fields from Watsonville to Salinas. But, growers know every year is different. As many farmers prepare for another year of drought statewide, locally that's not been the main concern.

Tom Ramirez, AG Manager Naturipe Berry Growers says, "This year, I think has had more of an impact then drought it’s been pretty cold making the crop delayed compared to other years. so we are going to be probably three to four weeks behind last years production just due to the colder weather."

Learning to deal with climate change and temperature swings is part of the job. Growers say they've learned to work around these obstacles, while still finding ways to make the crop successful. However when production is delayed, yields fall behind. The delay, not always a bad thing for the fruit.

Ramirez continues, "Berries tend to grow larger because they have more time on the vine building up more sugar content. So right now they are much sweeter for the amount of time they have to be on the vine and then the size is really nice."

The cold might be bad while growing, but once picked, cool air is a strawberries best friend.

"Once the fruit is harvested it starts to break down that’s why it most be constantly refrigerated. From the time you get it to the cooler to when they load it into a refrigerated truck to the detention to the grocery stores they must always be refrigerated up to the point where the stores take it out for display," says Ramirez.

The better refrigeration you have, the longer your berries will last. So what makes a good strawberry? Ramirez said, sugar content. Don't worry they're still jammed packed with plenty of nutrition, and the larger size is perfect for those long steamed, chocolate dip strawberries. A nice gift for mom just in time for Mother’s Day. Growing strawberries is a labor of love. There are no machines that harvest strawberries. It's all done by hand, and each row at Naturites' ranch, is harvested twice a week.

Ramirez, "Not all berries ripen at the same time. They come in different stages. It's necessary to make various rounds to catch them at the right color. The ripper the berry the sweeter it will be."

COVID has also been an impact this past year and local growers still need your support, buy fresh produce and keep our farmers going.

If you like strawberry, everything, here some good news. The the Watsonville Strawberry Festival will be taking place this year Sunday, August 8th. It will be scaled down and plans are still coming together as COVID guidance change.

Local News / Monterey County / Salinas / Top Stories / Video
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Erika Bratten

Erika Bratten is a weather forecaster for KION News Channel 5/46.

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