Despite falling short of record, production still called strong
By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- As the traditional peak season for California strawberries winds down, harvest numbers are still behind last year's record pace.
As of Aug. 6, growers had produced a little more than 131.7 million trays, lagging behind the nearly 134 million trays that had been produced at this time in 2010, according to the California Strawberry Commission.
But this year's pace is ahead of 2009, when about 131 million trays had been picked as of early August.
Growers are still seeing the effects of a cool and wet spring, which pushed the summer strawberry season back a month, said Carolyn O'Donnell, a commission spokeswoman.
"We saw our peak shift just a little behind where we were last year," O'Donnell said. "It's the weather. In any given year, the weather's going to be what the weather is. Next year it may be different ... and we won't have the cold, wet spring we had this year."
Strawberries are harvested somewhere in California year round, but the peak season typically runs from early May until about July as all three of the state's most prominent strawberry regions -- around Watsonville, Santa Maria and Oxnard -- ship berries.
As of Aug. 8, strawberries were still being picked in the San Joaquin Valley, according to a crop weather report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. And even stands in the northern Sacramento Valley were still open for business.
Strawberry production in the Golden State has enjoyed five straight record-setting years. This year's production could catch up if the summer remains cool and it stays relatively dry and warm into the winter, O'Donnell said.
"How many years in a row can you have a record-breaking year?" she said. "We'll always have weather and other things that will influence our production.
"It's actually been a pretty good season," she said. "People have been really happy with the fruit. It's looked pretty good and tasted pretty good. We never know how it's going to end up until we get to the end of the year."
California Strawberry Commission: http://californiastrawberries.com