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Strawberry Fields

Growers report improved harvest

June 26, 2011
The Leader Herald

Get them before school's out.

That's what Sand Flats Orchard owner Jim Hoffman tells customers about the state's strawberry season, which began in New York state several weeks ago and will come to a close shortly.

Paul Baker of Sanborn in Niagara County is executive director of the New York State Berry Growers Association. His group says strawberries are at their seasonal peak this time of year.

Article Photos

Sand Flats Orchard owner Jim Hoffman, center, helps Nathan and Matthew Verri of Little Falls, Herkimer County, while their mother, Robyn Verri, picks strawberries Tuesday in Fonda.

The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo

Both Hoffman and John Cashin, owner of Cashin's Farm in Root, said they are having better strawberry harvests this year over last year.

Hoffman, whose orchard is in Fonda, said he lost a portion of last year's crop due to frost.

"The berries are doing very well," he said. "We've had a good amount of moisture in the soil and then we got some good, warm, sunny days that help them ripen."

Hoffman has two acres dedicated to growing strawberries. He just put the crop on one of the acres this year.

"It takes a year or two to establish a strawberry harvest," he said. "Then it lasts about two or three years. The you have to start all over again.

Cashin said he lost some strawberry plants last year due to the heat, leaving him with fewer plants this year, but he said the plants that have remained yielded higher-quality strawberries.

"They seem to be a better shape and they're a pretty good size," he said.

New York's season for strawberries is a short one, with harvesting beginning around the middle of June. Cashin said his strawberries started ripening by June 10 and picking began June 15.

Cashin gives customers the opportunity to pick their own strawberries at certain times. Other times, their berries are sold at the local farmers markets.

Hoffman said Sand Flats was packed last weekend as customers picked strawberries from his one-acre plot. However, there was still plenty left for two families that were picking strawberries off the plot on Tuesday.

Robyn Verri of Little Falls, Herkimer County, picked strawberries Tuesday with her two children, Nathan and Matthew, while Lenora Evans of Gloversville filled up a large cardboard box with about seven plastic containers of strawberries with her granddaughter, Bre, who recently moved to the area from Illinois.

But now, school's out, and with the end of school comes the end of the strawberry picking season. That means for the area's orchards, it's on to the next harvest.

For Hoffman, that means getting ready for the late summer and the fall, which will bring apple season to be followed by pumpkin season. Cashin moves on to summer raspberries and blackberries. Then in the fall, he said he will have an additional round of raspberries.

Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at



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