Berry growers recover from tough 2016

  • —Courtesy photo

  • Giavanna Siciliano of Rindge enjoys a strawberry straight off the vine at Barrett Hill Farm in Mason on Thursday. —Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, June 26, 2017 7:44PM

The rainy spring has overcome the damage caused by last year’s drought to the strawberry crop, leaving plenty of berries for plucking.

Beth LeClair, who co-owns Barrett Hill Farm in Mason, said that while the berries came in fine last season, the farm had to be careful of irrigation to keep the plants alive and viable for this year as the summer went on without much rain. The LeClairs had to replant about an acre and a half of their ten acres of berries due to the drought.

“It is a big hit,” said LeClair. This year, however, was a different story, and the preseason rains helped the plants gain a good foothold, and the only weather troubles the LeClairs have seen is dips in numbers of pick-your-own residents on particularly hot and humid days. “The ones we were able to save, they’re really producing.”

The LeClairs will leave the new plants to themselves for a year before they are ready for picking.

Last year’s drought wasn’t the only impact to the local strawberry population. 

Tom Mitchell of Ledge Top Farm in Lyndeborough only has a small strawberry crop, a 50-75 foot row of about 100 plants, enough for his farmers market sales and CSA members, usually. This year, the yield is down pretty severely, he said, thanks to the impact of a pest that targets fruits and vegetable flowers, including strawberries — the tarnished plant bug. 

Because his crop is smaller, he was able to manage the drought last year with drip irrigation, said Mitchell, and this year, hasn’t had to irrigate at all yet this summer. But even so, the bugs damaged about half of his crop. Though, like LeClair, he said, what crop he does have are nice looking berries.

“I can’t keep a hold of them for very long,” he said.  

The strawberry season lasts through the first week of July.

Visit Barrett Hill Farm for pick-your-own strawberries. Berries start at $3.20 per pound, with the price reducing the more you pick, cumulatively over the season, and bottoming out at $1.35 per pound at 200 pounds or more. Ledge Top Farm sells their strawberries at the Milford, Merrimack and Bedford Farmers Markets and through its CSA, starting at $6 per quart.