A berry good year

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Other crops growing well, but not on par with stellar 2012 season

Six-year-old Aiden Snelgrove, visiting with his family from Caledonia, Ont., shows off his strawberries, after eating a few, at Lester’s u-pick Tuesday.
— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Berries are having a rebound year according to farmers contacted by The Telegram on Tuesday, while other crops are doing well, if not to the same extent they were during an exceptional 2012 growing season.

West coast farmer Paul Lomond of Lomond Farms in Pasadena and his east coast counterpart Chris Lester of Lester’s Farm Market in St. John’s are both reporting excellent strawberry crops this year.

 “The u-pick has done really well,” said Lomond, who called last year’s strawberry harvest his lowest in decades when he talked with The Western Star in August 2012.

“The weather has been warm and hot all of July, except for the last few days, which have been a bit wet, but yeah, it has been a good season,” said Lomond Tuesday.

The winter of 2012 killed much of his farm’s root system in relation to strawberries. This winter proved more fruitful, as snow was plentiful and remained on the ground for a lengthier period of time during cold stretches.

Lester said this year’s strawberry harvest has likely been the best ever for Lester’s Farm Market.

“As for the rest of the crops, we’re really starting to get into a mix of things now,” he said.

“We’re harvesting some potatoes. We’re about to start harvesting carrots, and of course our broccoli and lettuce and other salads vegetables, we’ve harvested them for a while,” Lester said.

The spring was relatively cold, but Lomond said other crops are now on target to grow at a rate that’s fairly typical for Lomond Farms, which also harvests carrots, plums, apples, raspberries, blueberries, partridgeberries, cherries, pumpkins, corn, and tomatoes, amongst other fruits and vegetables.

“Last year was just an exceptional year weather-wise. I’d say this year is probably more closer to a normal season.”

While Lester agrees this year’s growing season is not as good as 2012’s, he said it is far better than what was experienced during a dire 2011.

“I think (2012) was probably the best season we’ve experienced here in St. John’s, between the combination of the timing of rainfall early in the year and the heat that we received. This year has been pretty warm, but the only downfall for the season is the cold nights back in May and June.”

Cold nights with temperatures ranging from 3-4 C slowed overall growth. Had those temperatures been two degrees warmer, Lester said the harvesting of crops would have come much earlier.

While there was a dry spell this month, Lester said his farm’s irrigation system kept things balanced as far as keeping soil moist was concerned.

As for the remainder of the growing season, Lester hopes the weather manages to maintain its current course.

“We all know here in St. John’s we can run into a bad stretch of weather with a week to 10 days of cold temperatures and lots of rains, so we don’t want that. We need sunshine.”

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Geographic location: Pasadena, Western Star

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