Cottle Farms strawberry farms in Stockbridge and Fayetteville are bursting with berries three weeks before the season was anticipated.
Sandy Roberts, manager of Cottle Farms’ Georgia operations, said the season typically begins somewhere between April 10 and 15, but this year, it opened March 26.
“I’ve been doing this 28 years, and I’ve never seen it open this early,” she said.
Ron Cottle, president of the company, said he has been in the farming business all his life — 45 years — following in the footsteps of his father in 1964.
He, too, has never seen strawberries come in this early.
Cottle said the season is only six weeks long, and if people are not aware that now is high time for harvesting, many berries could go to waste.
Roberts also said if the ripened berries aren’t picked in time, it chokes the growth of the green berries underneath.
Cottle Farms could take a monetary hit in the thousands of dollars if the strawberry season is unsuccessful, with both a lack of pickers and buyers, and the aforementioned hindered growth, she said.
Cottle said the remainder of the season is unpredictable based on fluctuations in the weather.
Usually the strawberry season lasts until either early- or mid-June.
Last week’s temperature dip proved a first for the berry fields in Cottle Farms’ Faison, N.C., headquarters, where employees were on an all-night frost watch, Cottle said.
If the weather maintains reasonably cool temps, it could actually extend the season for farmers, he said.
“With the weather being cool and decent, we could pick into the first or second week of June as normal,” Cottle said, which would mean a bonus due to the early start.
Roberts said growth can no longer be sustained when temperatures reach the high 90s.
Both Roberts and Cottle encourage Fayette and Henry county residents to head out to the farms to pick the early bounty.
“We certainly need the help of the public,” Cottle said. “That’s what we thrive off of.
“It’s such a great outing for families.”
The Stockbridge field is located 4830 E. Fairview Road SW and the Fayetteville field is located at 150 Ellis Road.
Information: Stockbridge, (770) 761-7822; Fayetteville (770) 719-2600 or www.cottlefarms.com.