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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Arkansas strawberries arrive early, signaling start of fruit season


By Tracy Courage
U of A System Division of Agriculture

There’s good news for Arkansans looking forward to strawberry seasons: There’s no more waiting.  This year’s strawberries arrived one to two weeks earlier this month, with the season expected to peak in late April or early May.  “Normally our peak is closer to Mother’s Day, but we’ll peak earlier this year,” said Amanda McWhirt, extension fruit and vegetable horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “The temps warmed up earlier this year, and we were able to protect the plants through the cool spells. We may have had a little damage to the crowns from that ice and snow we had, but we were able to get row covers on them. With warm days in March, the plants started coming out of dormancy and started growing.” Strawberries suffer damage when temperatures dip below freezing, but most growers were able to get row crop covers on their plants. Randy Arnold, president of the Mid-American Strawberry Growers Association, said he’s seen just a little damage to some of his 75,000 strawberry plants at this farm near Alma. “I’m realizing just a little damage and seeing the smaller nubbins,” which he sells as seconds, he said.Arnold picked his first strawberry on April 1 and has been picking ever since to keep pace with demand. There’s often a waiting list at the Arnold Family farm Store on Highway 71 in Alma. “The demand is as big as I’ve seen it,” he said. “We picked 900 pounds today, and they were gone by 1:30 p.m.” In Central Arkansas, Barnhill Orchards was busy picking and selling quarts of berries at its drive-through at 277 Sandhill Road in Lonoke.
“Our berries came in about a week early,” said Ekko Barnhill, who manages sales. “We have a new variety we are using — Ruby Junes. They are big strawberries, very red and sweet.  Our customers absolutely love them.”

Barnhill said her family planted 8 acres of berries this year, one more acre than last year. She expects peak harvest around the first or second week in May.

 “As the temp gets warmer, the berries put on faster,” she said. “The extra heat makes them a little sweeter, too.” 

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk. 

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Tammy Teague
Tammy Teague
Tammy is the heart behind the brand. Her tenacity to curate authentic journalism, supported by a genuine heart is one her many wholesome qualities.
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