Megan Betz, of Union Grove, searches for ripe strawberries during an excessive heat warning on June 30 at Walvoord Farm Berries in Kansasville (Jason Arndt/The Report).

By Jason Arndt

High heat followed by short-term heavy rainfall put a pinch at area strawberry farms where producers have reported a challenging season.

That season, which ended abruptly last weekend, normally runs from mid-June through July 4.

Gary Walvoord, who operates Walvoord Farm Berries in Kansasville, blames the scorching temperatures for the drop in strawberry quality and the shortened picking season.

“We had excess water in May, and then during picking season, we had the heat,” said Walvoord. “Remember Father’s Day how hot it was? It was a real cooker.”

With heat indices often rising above 90 degrees, he said strawberries have been under distress, and in many cases unable to grow to their full size.

Ideally, according Walvoord, strawberries thrive in milder temperatures.

“For berries, you want to have 75 to 80 degree temperatures and a half inch of water a week,” he said, noting some periods of rainfall dumped more than four inches. “Four inches of water is too much.”

For Carolyn Heaslet, of Racine, the excessive heat warning on June 29 did not deter her from visiting the 80-acre farm off of Highway A in Racine County.

“I love coming out here, I think it is a lot of fun to pick your own berries,” she said. “Taste-wise, it is better than any grocery store.”

Heaslet, however, said this year’s picking season was unlike any other.

“The other times, it has not been this hot,” Heaslet said.

Morgan Betz, of Union Grove, said she has seen the difference in size of the strawberries.

“The strawberries are kind of smaller this year,” she said.

Walvoord, whose farm has 13-3/4 acres dedicated to the strawberries, believes the heat stunted production.

“The size drops down because they cannot take the stress,” said Walvoord, who decided to close strawberry picking opportunities at noon June 30.

At Thompson’s Strawberry Farm on Highway 50 in Bristol, where about 20 of the farm’s 100 acres consists of the crop, Jeff Thompson agreed with Walvoord.

Thompson said this was one of the worst seasons in recent memory.

“With all of the rain we had the last couple of weeks, it has been really trying,” he said on June 29. “In the past four or five years, this is definitely our worst year.”

“Strawberries just don’t like 90 degrees,” Thompson added.

Thompson Strawberry Farm, which planned to continue its season through July 4, reported on its website Monday that there were limited picking options.

Both farms, meanwhile, will have other crops available later in the year.

At Walvoord, they plan to offer pumpkins in the fall, and continue to make stops at area farmer’s markets.

Thompson Strawberry Farm will have both pumpkins and raspberries available in the fall.


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