Winter weather and a busy spring break have the strawberries coming slowly this year for Oakview Farms.
“We were hit hard this week with spring break,” Oakview Farms co-owner Patty Lambrecht said. “The weather has also affected the berries this year. All this rain — the plants look great but they just aren’t as big and bushy as normal. This is happening statewide.”
Lambrecht, who owns the farm with her husband Joe, said warming temperatures will help all the blooms transform into juicy, sweet strawberries many will sample in the field while picking.
“We’ve had sun all week but cool nights,” she said Friday. “You can find berries, just not in numbers to open up today. It is a crazy year.”
Lambrecht said the public should keep an eye on the farm’s Facebook page to see when the field will be open. When it does, she said there will be plenty of strawberries.
“We have 20,000 plants, which is over two acres,” she said. “That is a lot of plants. It is more than we had last year.”
Lambrecht said preparation is the key to so many strawberries.
“When you do this many, you worry about having enough help,” Lambrecht said. “We have friends who help us and we hire some people. Every year we have them delivered in mid-October. The ground is already prepped. The plastic is in, the rye grass is in to keep the weeds down and our help is lined up. Two of us ride the planter. Oct. 15 is our goal date to have them in the ground.”
Planting is not the only work that goes into maintaining the strawberries; there is also irrigation and protection from cold weather.
“When the frost came in the first of March, we covered them with a fabric before the rain to protect them from the frost,” Lambrecht said. “We only had that one period of time when we covered them this year. Thankfully everything is OK.”
In addition to the u-pick operation, Oakview Farms sells strawberries by other means.
“We sell them to restaurants like Springhouse,” Lambrecht said. “We sell them at the farm store too. We are open three days a week there and people expect us to have them.”
The strawberries will come around, especially for u-pick, and an old friend will likely be there to greet families — Jack the Strawberry Dog.
“Jack! Jack! Look up crazy dog!” Lambrecht yelled across the rows of strawberries last week. “He is looking over his plants.”
Lambrecht said Jack is as much a part of the u-pick operation as the human employees.
“He comes out and entertains the kids,” she said. “Last year he was a puppy and we kept him in a pen. The kids who come back want to check on Jack. They want him to go out and pick with them.”
Lambrecht said Jack has a bit of experience picking strawberries and might be the farm’s best inspector.
“He loves strawberries,” she said. “Last year when he was a puppy, he would walk down a row. If he saw a berry he liked, he would pick it but would not tear up the plant. He would pick the berry and leave the green stems so people started calling him Jack the Strawberry Dog.”
Lambrecht is not worried her best inspector is eating into the farm’s profits and Jack is not wasteful.
“He will eat the entire berry,” Lambrecht said. “I don’t think he eats too much. He is a rescue half Corgi. He has a long body. He only eats three or four at a time.”