By Melody Vallieu
TROY — Strawberry season is an art — one that Fulton Farms has down pat.
Levi Karnehm, grandson of Fulton Farms owners Joyce and the late Bill Fulton, and strawberry fields manager, said unlike with many other crops, making sure Fultons strawberries are ready for the annual Troy Strawberry Festival can be a bit of a challenge.
“Strawberries, they have a mind of their own because they are perennials,” Karnehm said. “It can be very stressful to get the timing right and everything right so that they are ready this week. It is probably the busiest farming week of the year for my family.”
Karnehm said strawberry season worked out perfectly this year, with the 15 acres of strawberry fields opening on May 11. Karnhem said the strawberry season is usually about three to five weeks long, and Fultons got a full three weeks this season.
“Hot weather is the worst enemy for the strawberry,” Karnehm said. “We got really hot weather about 10 days ago and they just stopped producing.”
He said strawberries in a few years past have been ripe and ready as early as late April or as late as after the festival is over, so he is thankful for the bounty of berries being ready for the public and the many things they will be turned into over the next few days during the festival — burritos, shortcakes, pies and shakes, just to name a few.
He said the farm averaged about 1,000 quarts of strawberries each day of the three-week season this year, and said about 21,000 quarts of the berries were harvested and sold.
“The crop was very good this year,” Karnehm said.
He said of the acreage, one field is used mostly for picking the berries for the market and the others are U-pick fields where visitors can pick their own strawberries straight off the vines. Karnehm said there is a mixture of festival non-profits that get their berries from Fultons — some still choose to pick their own, some purchase them already picked. He said most non-profits already have their strawberries purchased for the weekend.
He said after three weeks of the red-ripe fruits, the season was pretty much over on Wednesday and the fields would likely close. However, he said some strawberries will still be ready for sale — and the market open — during festival weekend.
“We will be open and have some berries during the festival, but not nearly the quantity and quality,” Karnehm said.
Karnehm said Fulton Farms also will offer a later variety of berries that won’t be available until later in June, but on a much smaller scale.
Karnehm said Fulton Farms now has tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers and asparagus available for sale, and will have peas in the next few weeks.
Sweet corn — another of their largest crops besides pumpkins — will be available between July 4 and Labor Day, he said.