Michigan farmers share concerns of shorter strawberry season due to high forecasted temperatures
Michigan's strawberry season may be in trouble this year due to higher than normal forecasted temperatures.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Ernie Ostuno says predicted summer temperatures this year will be higher than average, along with low precipitation.
This is raising concerns for some strawberry farmers.
John Felzke, owner of Felzke Farms, said strawberry season typically starts the 4th or 5th of June, but for his farm, it didn’t start until the 10th. Ideally, strawberry season last about 30 days, Felzke said.
“Right now you’re only looking at about a 20 to 21 day season,” Felzke said.
Huhn Strawberry Farm owner Christina Huhn said her berries are feeling the heat.
“They start to wilt and then they get heat stressed and you know plants are like any person or any other living organism. When it gets stressed for a long time it’s not healthy, so this heat affects everything," Huhn said.
“They start to wilt and then they get heat stressed and you know plants are like any person or any other living organism. When it gets stressed for a long time it’s not healthy, so this heat affects everything.”
High temperatures make the berries ripen faster, Huhn added.
“When it’s real hot you don't have people out here picking and the berries ripen faster than you can pick them,” she said.
It’s best to pick early in the morning, otherwise the berries may become too soft due to the heat, Felzke said.
“You can’t pick in the heat of the day because then the fruit gets soft on you,” Felzke said.
With cooler temperatures, the berries are able to ripen at a slower pace, allowing for a longer season. Size is another concern. When berries ripen fast, it also makes them smaller, Huhn explained.
“When we were harvesting, some of the first berries that came off were the size of a walnut or a golf ball,” Huhn said. “It’s very noticeable this week with the hot weather that the berries are ... the size of a large marble or smaller,” she said.
And that size also has an effect on customers.
“Customers would rather pick larger berries if they’re coming to pick 20 or 30 pounds, it picks faster and easier than picking a lot of smaller berries,” Huhn said.
Both Huhn and Felzke say yearly weather changes are a risk farmers have to take.
“It’s just something that kind of happens. One week is cool, last week we had some cool weather, this week we had some hot weather so we just kind of take it as it comes,” Huhn said.
Both farms practice methods like irrigation to help the berries, but with high temperatures this summer, Huhn said there’s a good chance this year’s strawberry season will end sooner than normal.
Genevieve’s story is brought to you as part of a partnership between WKAR and Michigan State University's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.