COLUMBUS COUNTY -- A wacky winter and now a wild spring are giving North Carolina strawberry farmers a strange season. The state Agriculture Department says the season is shaping up to be a big one, but farmers in our area say it's starting late.
North Carolina is the fourth leading strawberry producer in the country, but as always, weather plays a big role in how the crop does. On one hand, southeastern North Carolina endured its tenth coldest winter on record. On the other hand, the spring weather of late has been abnormally warm, which is pushing the crop back up to speed.
As it shakes out, farmers in our area say the crop will be a good one, but each plant is producing fewer berries this year, and they're running about seven to ten days behind schedule.
"Even though we had the cold temperatures, we haven't had to frost protect any at all, which is highly unusual," Jerry Robinson of Robinson Produce near Bolton said. "Usually we have to do it at least once or twice."
At Robinson Produce, they started picking berries last week and say they should have a good supply for the next six weeks.
The biggest date for strawberry farmers in Columbus County is May 1. That's the date of the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in Chadbourn. Even with the weather ups and downs it looks like the crop will be peaking at the right time.