TROY — The spring of 2018 has brought up-and-down climate conditions to the Miami Valley, and its effects may be most apparent to local farmers. Fulton Farms, now in the middle of its 2018 strawberry harvest, is currently evaluating the effect that spring flooding has had on its crop.
“We had some flooding earlier in the year,” said market manager Joe Fulton. “We had a levee break, and the water went over the berries for about 24 hours, and then drained off. It didn’t damage them, but it did stunt their growth.”
Fulton said that a levee breaking was something that does happen occasionally, stating “every five or six years, we might have a levee break. What really hurts us, though, is when we get a lot of rain up north, and we get a lot down here when that’s all draining. That just overloads everything.”
Fulton also said that recent rises in heat have had an effect on the strawberry crop as well, in both their size and their sweetness.
“The heat these last few days has been sort of hard on them,” Fulton said. “Any time you heat a berry up, it doesn’t allow a it to form as big as it wants to get. Normally, you have a berry the size of a golfball, but in a 90-degree day, it’ll shrink down to the size of a quarter. The berry ripens a lot quicker, but all that sugar is compacted in that small little berry, so you do get really sweet berries.”
Due to the berry shortage, no U-Pick option is being offered to customers on Fulton Farms this season.
“It’s not fair to the general public who come in and get them every year,” Fulton said. “We want to make sure we’re providing to them. We’ve had a consistent yield, but we’re trying to pick every other day so that we have a steady flow of berries, rather than pick them all at once and run out.”
Strawberries are now available at the farm semi-daily, and are limited to four quarts per customer.
Fulton indicated that, despite the shortage, the farm’s plans to grow its seasonal output are still in full swing.
“We did buy in 20,000 extra plants this year, so we could expand our strawberry operation,” Fulton said. “With the demand being so high in the area, we want to start growing. Instead of ordering 40,000 plants, we’re going to start ordering 60-65,000 plants and rotate those yearly. We want to grow our U-Pick, and we want to have a section of fields that is designated to the U-Pick.”
Fulton Farms will be hosting representatives from Farmhouse Bakery on Saturday, June 2, beginning at 9 a.m., to offer homemade Fulton strawberry donuts to coincide with the Strawberry Festival.
“Overall, it’s been a good year,” Fulton exclaimed. “We’ve had a good harvest.”
For more information, visit www.fultonfarms.com.