My Ambivalent Relationship with Strawberries

I love strawberries.  We grow strawberries, but are limited by several factors such as time and space requirements, my physical condition, price, and uncertainty of production.  What do I mean?

Strawberries take space that could grow crops with significantly more production and less labor.  Ken plants them, weeds strawberries several times, composts, pulls out some of the runner plants, transplants, and maintains the crop over multiple seasons.   Imagine transplanting cabbage or broccoli, weeding once and pulling a large, heavy crop compared to a row of strawberries that produces a few quarts.

Then there is my labor.  I net the strawberries to avoid bird damage, pull the netting each time I pick, and either bend at the hips or crawl along to pick berries that are on the ground, and then replace the netting.  How many feet how many times a week am I excited about doing that? 

Next there are the factors of weather and predators.  Since it is a short season bad weather really affects production.  Dry weather means  smaller berries (more picking to fill that quart container); wet weather brings out mold, fungus, rot and slugs. 

 

This year we also have some small wiry worms burrowing into the berries.  So, damage can be from any of the following sources: slugs, wiry worms,

 

 

 

birds, chipmunks, deer, and bears.  We have experienced all but the bears – so far.

To create better odds at getting a crop large scale, mainstream growers’ berries are frequently sprayed with some of the worst chemicals in the business throughout the season.  They usually appear near  the top of the Environmental Working Group’s list of produce with pesticide residues called the Dirty Dozen.  Decades ago when we checked for the organic solution to the tarnished plant bug infestation; the organic solution killed honey bees.  This was when we stopped using ALL chemicals and focused on soil health.  In addition to the work for uncertain outcome many people expect grocery store prices.  Those berries are usually harvested by cheap labor – either migrants or interns.  

I still love strawberries, and we grow them.  But we charge premium price and the quantities are limited.  We view them as an annual treat, not a staple.

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