SEATTLE – Washington state’s strawberry harvest is running two to three weeks early, the result of a warmer and drier spring than usual, farmers say.
Don Kruse, owner of Skagit Sun, which specializes in growing heirloom varieties of strawberries between La Conner and Mount Vernon, said he hasn’t started a harvest so early in 25 years in the business.
His previous record for an early start was Memorial Day, and “we generally don’t pick until mid-June,” Kruse said.
Strawberries also are running about three weeks early in Oregon. Much of the harvest in both states goes to processors such as Haagen-Dazs for ice cream.
Washington is the nation’s fifth largest strawberry producer in volume behind California, Florida, Oregon and North Carolina with 1,800 acres yielding a crop worth about $8.3 million in 2002, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Other crops in Washington also have been running early. Asparagus began hitting local markets last month. Cherries should begin appearing toward the start of June, about a week early, growers say.
Gary Remlinger, owner of Remlinger Farms in Carnation, said he expects to begin picking around May 29, the earliest in at least two decades.
“It looks like it’ll be the nicest crop in years,” Remlinger added.
Tom Schotzko, an agricultural economist with Washington State University, said growers could wind up getting squeezed if the warm weather continues without a letup and the fruit matures all at once rather than gradually.
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