TRURO – Jim Lorraine planted 12 acres of strawberries this year, three times what he usually plants.
The farmer, who owns Riverbreeze Farms outside Truro, said he did it as a precaution against the virus that has destroyed an estimated 40 per cent of strawberry crops this season across the province.
“We’re going to plow down the fields at the end of the season,” he explained.
“That way, we start from scratch next season. So if any of our crops have been affected by the virus, it won’t spread.”
He said it was the only way he could see to keep his eight varieties of strawberries healthy.
He was at the Truro Farmer’s Market on Saturday selling strawberry quarts for $4, a price that has gone up from last year due to the virus that attacks the plant by weakening it so it produces undesirably small berries and eventually no berries at all.
The higher prices haven’t kept customers from buying, as evidenced by lineups of people to pick up their quarts.
“It was slow at the start, because it was raining so hard,” explained Riverbreeze Farms berry seller Kaye Smyth.
“But yesterday we sold 100 flats.”
Across the market, Giselle Henwood was at the Christie Henwood Farm stand to help her uncle sell strawberries, jams, eggs and maple products.
Her uncle’s farm was affected by a touch of the crop and she’s got a bit fewer berries to sell, but she’s not too worried.
“You just check the plants and pull out the ones that look unhealthy,” she said.
She said sales at her booth had been “pretty good”.
“People just have to get used to them being here,” said the Halfway River resident.
The virus has prompted retailers such as Sobeys to import strawberries from American markets, but Henwood said she doesn’t blame them for doing what they can to make up for the shortage.
“It’s not like this is the first time they’ve done it,” she said. “And Sobeys isn’t here to compete with the farmer’s markets, they’re more interested in competing with bigger sellers, like Costco.”
The price of a quart of strawberries at the farmer’s market has gone up a bit this year, with quart prices hovering around $3.50 a year ago. But for those looking for a real bargain and the chance to get a little physical activity, Lorraine is opening up the U-pick at his farm this week. He was hoping to open on Canada Day.
Lorraine sells his U-pick strawberries at $1.60 per quart or $1.15 per pound.