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Potential early start for Whatcom strawberry harvest

Sam Grubbs looks at some of his strawberry plants at his farm, Bellingham Country Gardens on the Kelly Road east of Bellingham, Thursday, May 5, 2016. Although some of his strawberry plants from last year already have berries on them, the majority of his crop will be ready for u-pick by June.
Sam Grubbs looks at some of his strawberry plants at his farm, Bellingham Country Gardens on the Kelly Road east of Bellingham, Thursday, May 5, 2016. Although some of his strawberry plants from last year already have berries on them, the majority of his crop will be ready for u-pick by June. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

There’s a good chance Whatcom County strawberries will arrive earlier than usual this year.

With the relatively warmer weather this winter and spring, strawberries are ahead of schedule and harvesting could start in mid-May, said Mike Boxx of Boxx Berry Farm at 6211 Northwest Drive. If the harvest does start around mid-May, he expects u-pick to start around the end of the month. Typically the harvest happens around mid-June.

The weather needs to cooperate for an early harvest to happen, Boxx said. A stretch of sunny, 70-degree days would move the process along while cold, wet days would slow things down.

Once the harvest gets rolling, it typically lasts around two weeks, although local farms also plant strawberries that are ready later in the summer. In Whatcom County about 300 acres are devoted to commercial strawberries.

Temperatures have been particularly warm some recent days, prompting Boxx to start up his irrigation system, which is unusual for this time of year.

Strawberries kick off the small fruit harvests in Whatcom County; following the strawberry harvest are the larger harvests of raspberries and blueberries. Boxx said at this stage he’s expecting an early harvest for the raspberries and blueberries; those usually happen in July and August.

According to the a small fruit update newsletter put out by The Northwest Berry Foundation, the raspberry harvest could start as early as the week of June 20.

Last year’s hot, dry weather led to a lighter harvest of raspberries, with Whatcom County farmers harvesting 50.7 million pounds of raspberries. That was down 26.3 percent compared to the record-breaking year of 2014, according to the Washington Red Raspberry Commission.

The number of blueberries harvested in Whatcom County last year was around 40 million pounds, according to the Washington Blueberry Commission.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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