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Late spring results in record delay of strawberry crops
JUNE 24, 2013
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Dairy Berry Day set for Thursday

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DASSEL, MN – “The phone is ringing off the hook,” commented Julie Townsend of Dassel Hillside Farm.

Typically this time in June, customers are lining up for a chance to pick their own strawberries at the Dassel farm.

This year, however, the berries just aren’t ready.

“It’s the latest season we’ve ever seen,” Karl Townsend added, who explained there are certain growing points in the season to compare from year to year.

For Dassel Hillside, it’s the apple bloom.

Karl explained that strawberries bloom about the time when the blooms fall off the apple trees.

This year happened the blooms tied for the latest season since the early 1980s when the planted their first trees. The last time the season was this late was in the early ‘90s, Karl noted. He said he remembers the date, May 17, because that is Syttende Mai, the Norwegian independence day.

The Townsends said the past two growing seasons have gone from one extreme to the next.

Last year, the apple blooms came the first week of April, which was the earliest they had bloomed. Then they were struck with frost.

“They grow fast when it’s warm, and slow when it’s cool,” he commented.

Typically, the apples trees are in full bloom in early May, Julie commented.

“We’re going from one record to another by two weeks,” Karl said, adding that everything is late by two weeks.

Last year at this time, the Townsends were in the middle of the berry-picking season. The season usually lasts three weeks.

Because of the late blooms, Dassel Dairy Berry Day will also be the latest it’s been.

Dairy Berry Day began in the 1990s as a way for the local growers to partner with the co-op and promote locally grown food along with June Dairy Month.

If the Townsends had it their way, they would wait until the first part of July for the community event.

Now, they are just hoping they will have enough – 50 pounds of berries is served on average – by Thursday’s Dairy Berry Day.

As of Friday, however, Karl reported that the warm temperatures have helped speed up the process and that there will be plenty of berries for Dairy Berry Day.

The strawberry crops may be slow to start, but they are expected to be one of the best crops ever, Karl noted.

“Berries like cool weather. They grow really well,” he said, adding that plants don’t grow when it’s cool and cloudy. “They just sit there,” he added.

This year’s crop is anticipated to be ready for customers the first week of July.

The Townsends and staff are also doing their part by providing proper weed and pest control.

Because of the considerable amount of rain, the Townsends’ crop consultant advised them to apply slug bait – small blue pellets – to keep slugs from eating the berries.

The slugs come because they like it when it’s wet, and then they eat the berries. Therefore, the Townsends bait them a week or two before the berries ripen, Julie explained.

The Townsends are also expanding their strawberry fields from 2.5 acres to 3.5 acres, with two acres as part of a four-year rotation.

The crops are rotated every four years to allow time to enrich the soil.

As far as the apple crops at Dassel Hillside, they too, are behind schedule.

The apples are normally ready by mid-August. This year, however, they will not likely be ready until Labor Day.

“Everything is late,” Karl commented, adding that the crops get ready on their own schedule.

“We just have to be patient.”

Dairy Berry Day Thursday

Free strawberry sundaes and root beer floats will be served in Bandstand Park on Atlantic Avenue, Dassel, Thursday, June 25 at 7 p.m. Mid-Minnesota Concert Band will provide musical entertainment.

In case of inclement weather, the event will be moved to the Dassel History Center.

U-Pick at Dassel Hillside

Because the berries are about two weeks behind the average, U-Pick will likely begin the first week in July and will go for about three weeks.

Find updates online at here or call (320) 275-2622.

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