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Strawberries ripe for the picking

Strawberries survived this season’s harsh temperatures, making them one of the only farm-fresh fruits available.
“We really need to appreciate these strawberries because most of our fruit crops are going to be thin or non-existent this summer,” said Kevin Starr, director of the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension.
Peaches, apples, blueberries and blackberries all took a hit after warm temperatures took a nose-dive this spring.
“The freeze got everything else, but the strawberries got through the cold okay,” said Barry Lineberger of Lineberger’s Berry Hill Farm in Iron Station.
Saving those strawberries, however, was not an easy task. The Linebergers had to stay up through the night irrigating the fruit.
“We were up all night six nights in a row,” Lineberger said.
The frozen water kept the temperature a consistent 32 degrees on plants, just warm enough for survival.
“We had just enough water to get us through,” Lineberger said.
The Linebergers tried to save the blueberries as well, but there was too much surface area to cover.
The strawberries only suffered the loss of a few blossoms. Their growth was also slowed down a little bit.
That said, it looks to be a healthy strawberry season.
“The berries are nice – a very good size,” Lineberger said.
Once the strawberries are gone, however, the rest of the fruit season will be less than stellar.
Dying crops didn’t just hit Lincoln County – it affected farms all across the Southeast. This means higher-priced fruit in grocery stores.
The lesson?
“Buy all the strawberries you can,” Starr said.
As for the farmers, they’ve seen worse – just not recently.
“It’s part of it. My dad’s been farming for over 50 years, and it’s just part of the business,” Lineberger said. “You just sort of build it into your plans almost.”
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Want to go? Lineberger’s Berry Hill Farm is located at 2400 Hudson Poultry Road in Iron Station. Strawberries can be bought Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. For more information call (704) 748-1488.
by Sarah Grano

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