Florida’s strawberry season is coming to an end, so you only have about a month left to pick the farm fresh sweet treats straight from the plant yourself. And there’s only one strawberry U-pick left on the Treasure Coast.
Countryside Fspanmily Fspanrms north of Vero Beach, which mostly grows citrus, typically opens its U-pick berries section in early December and closes it around mid-March, said farm manager Clint Lee.
But it’s not open every day, so check the schedule before you go.
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In between pickings, farm employees must do maintenance by pulling the weeds, spraying for insects and fertilizing the crops. They try to open for picking on the weekends because it’s better for business, but they also try to open one to two days during the week.
“We’ll pick whenever we can,” Lee said.
People who pick strawberries get to choose what they want, weigh their buckets and pay $5 per pound. It’s better to arrive early to avoid an over-picked crop later in the day.
U-pick is a win-win for a farm because people bring their families and pay for the experience of picking strawberries — instead of the farm paying employees to pick them.
But it all depends on the weather, Lee said. The farm could lose half or all its strawberry crop because of rain or frost. Solid rain turns the berries into mush. Cold snaps can help, similar to the way they benefit citrus, but too much is bad for the berries.
“It’s difficult, the change in the trend in the winter,” Lee said. “It’s a risky crop, which is why a lot of people got out of the business.”
Since the growing, harvesting and shipping of citrus is the main focus, Countryside can run the risk of a ruined crop. They hope to at least to break even, Lee said.
Lee started the two-acre strawberry patch during the 2017-18 season because there was vacant land that wasn’t being used. The patch is lined with 60 rows of red fruit, but isn’t very large compared to others in the state.
He considered planting pineapple or tomatoes until he realized there weren’t any strawberry patches on the Treasure Coast.
“It’s a great investment if you can pull it off,” Lee said, “and it’s great for the community.”