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Strawberry season is officially here

April 20, 2011

With warm weather on the horizon that can only mean one thing — L.F.R. Farms and Greenhouse is now open.

Strawberry season started Monday, which is early for L.F.R. Farms and Greenhouse.

Farm owner Lucas Richard said the best weather for strawberries is cool, dry temperatures. Berries don’t typically start to bloom until March 15 or as late as March 20, he said.

“Our season usually runs from April 20 to June 15, (if lucky) we can go to the end of June,” Richard said, who has owned the farm since 1995.

“It just depends on if the weather can stay cool till the end of June.”

To prepare for the season, Lucas Richard, owner since 1995, said preparation starts in September. Part of the preparation process includes laying down new plastic on the field, which allows berries to grow. Once the field was ready, Richard planted strawberry seeds for the next season.

When berries start to bloom, in order to protect them from hail or heavy rains, L.F.R. will start the irrigation process if the temperature drops to 30 degrees.

“Last year, we had to irrigate four times to protect the berries,” Richard said.

Irrigation allows ground water to cover the berries. When the water is released, it creates a frozen sheet over the berries, protecting them from harmful substances. The frozen sheet later melts in warm weather.

When strawberry season is at its highest bloom in May, it takes 5 minutes to gather the berries. With berry season now starting, it may take up to 10 minutes to fill up an entire gallon because berries are not fully bloomed.

Consumers often like strawberries at farms because of the sweeter taste. Berries purchased at a farm are fresher versus at a grocery store, Richard said.

“Most the time in a grocery store, (strawberries) are usually a week to 10 days old,” said Richard. “Here at (L.F.R) a visitor is picking the berries right off the plant. It is as fresh as you can get it. Even if the visitor buys the handpicked barriers from (L.F.R.), it still is fresh because they are picked every day.”

According to Richard, visitors can tell how fresh a strawberry is by looking at the color. Stay away from berries that have a green tint, they tend to not be as fresh.

Once a strawberry is washed and the green stem is removed, berries can last up to four days.

Visitors have the options of handpicking strawberries for $7 a gallon or purchasing already picked strawberries by L.F.R. for $9 a gallon.

The greenhouse is located at the farm and offers vegetable plants that can be picked.

During the winter season, there are no blooms because strawberries cannot product in colder temperatures, Richard said. In addition, strawberries stop producing in late June because of extreme heat conditions.

Once strawberries are no longer producing, L.F.R. pulls out leftover roots and starts planting cantaloupes and watermelons on the plastic that is embedded into the ground. Unlike berries, cantaloupes and watermelons can produce in hotter climates.

Unfortunately, residents cannot pick watermelons or cantaloupes at the farm. Richard takes the fruit to the Greensboro and Piedmont Triad farmers markets, where they can be purchased.

Typically the farm serves more than 200 people a day and can be a fun activity for the family.

L.F.R. Farms and Greenhouse is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and eventually will open on Saturdays once there are more blooms, Richard said.

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